Monday, 15 December 2014

Jake Woodn't

Week 12: Top Five results (Semi-Final Week) - 14 December 2014

Last night! Two-dance night, as is its wont, showed that most celebrities cave under the pressure of learning two routines. Everyone's first dance was pretty underwhelming, Simon, Frankie and Jake somewhat picked up in their second, Mark's rumba split the judges (and almost his trousers) and Caroline's salsa got the first 40 of the series. Tonight! Someone is going home! And Paloma Faith finally returns to her spiritual home!

We open with a disco-themed pro dance to 'Everybody Get On Up and Dance' and 'He's the Greatest Dancer' (minus Anton - presumably because of a vague Latin-tinge to the dance and Ola - presumably because of injuring herself on that other reality show of which we will not speak) but with secret added Anya sporting VOLUMINOUS HAIR. The moral of the story is that the pros are at a sleazy school disco presided over by DJ Bruno but no-one wants to dance with Aliona because she's such a bitch and then random Louis Smith comes out and she dances with a WINNER after all those first boot disgusting old men she's had to put up with so who's laughing now BITCHEZ. Also of note: Tristan can't disco to save his life and Joanne's metamorphosis into Karen Hardy is almost complete.

Tess and Claud enter, sans male accompaniments, but wearting sparkly sunglasses. Daly Dresswatch: black with a leg split. What Winkleman's Wearing: also black, with an asymmetrical shoulder-line. Tess says it's good to see Louis Smith (and Anya! Hi Anya!) and he'll be dancing with Aliona in the 'all-stars' Christmas special.

The judges' entrance retains its lack of arsedness - except for Bruno who is still in the disco spirit.

Boring recap bit! Of note: Bruno wearing a bright blue scarf with a red cardi like a colour blocking fiend; hot Greg reminding everyone it's the semi-final; everyone reminding everyone it's the semi-final.

Results time!  Safe are: Caroline and Pasha and Frankie and Kevin. So at least one of them will get to choreograph a showdance because their previous form at that genre is so spectacular. [They both will - everyone gets to do their showdance these days. - Steve] The first couple in the dance off? Mark and Karen oh dear what a shame.  I would love it if Simon was up against them and triumphed yet again. Mark says he never even dreamt he'd get to the semi-final and he COULD NEVER DANCE before but now he can because he's been on a wonderful journey etc etc. Tess asks which dance they've chosen to do again and he says the rumba because they both loved it. Darcey says they should just to what they did before because it worked. Although... that wasn't exactly your commentary at the time, Bussell.

In the Clauditorium, Caroline is really happy and says Strictly is all she thinks about. I feel right now might not be the time to tell her she's the only contestant whose VT hasn't been full of HOW VERY BUSY she is which might suggest there's little else for her to think about. (I like Caroline. I'm kind of sad she doesn't have a regular presenting gig). [When they sack Tess and give Zoe the main show gig, Caroline can have It Takes Two. - Steve] Frankie and Kevin are also happy to be in the final.

Now, with 'Changing', it's Paloma Faith. Given her appearance on all those X Factor bumpers I was worrying she wouldn't be here to grace us with her special brand of loonery and seeing as she was absent last year that wouldn't do at all. Sadly her usual Carmen Miranda style get up has been replaced by some sort of dressing-gown made of silk curtains and her mouth sounds more like it's got a bag of marbles in it than usual. She jigs about a bit, and it's almost as bad as Lennox, but fortunately Janette and Aljaž come on and hide us from her mum-moves with a disco-Latin-lifty thing.

Time for Len's Lens. The last of the series? One can hope. Len explains that a reverse wave in foxtrot is about the way the heel and toe move when going backwards. Claudia asks Darcey to confirm she is a fully-signed up member of the Church of Brendan Cole of the Holy Chaste Rumba. She isn't, but Bruno is. Ish. [That's odd, I assumed Bruno would burst into flames the second he crossed the threshold. - Steve] Claudia gives Craig a framed (sans glass) picture of him with a 10 paddle. He says he absolutely loved Caroline's salsa and was overwhelmed. Claudia confirms that this is indeed the last Len's Lens of the series and gives us the judges' best bits. Weirdly they include several of their entrances and some footage of Donny, so... not what I'd have chosen.

More results! Simon and Kristina are safe, leaving Jake and Janette to dance-off against Mark and Karen. Not entirely the result I was expecting although a fair one on reflection. Kristina covers her mouth to stop herself exploding. Of all the journeys this series, I think she's come furthest. [At least until she lost her damn mind on Twitter. - Steve] Jake and Janette seem quite fine about being in the dance-off and Janette thanks everyone that's voted for them so far. Jake says they're going to dance the cha cha cha again because he feels more comfortable with Latin. Craig says he should go out there and be a fantastic actor and they've given the judges and the nation some extraordinary routines. And some boring ones. And some flat-out ridiculous ones. And that American Smooth where Jake just stood around whilst prop dancers flung Janette in the air and they still got high scores.

In the Clauditorium, Kristina says it's her second final in seven years and she thinks it'll be her lucky 7. I did think at the start that these two might win, what with it being YEAR OF THE MAN and all, but with his several dance-offs I'm not quite sure I can see it, even if she probably does deserve the Camilla/Flavia victory she's been after for ages with her series of hunks on paper, clunk(er)s on dancefloor. Sorry Kristina.

Whilst Jake and Janette get ready to dance we get more Marky Marky Humble Journeyman talk bollocks about how much he loves Jake and Karen. At least he doesn't cry.

Jake and Janette dance first. Given the routine wasn't much cop in the first place, there's not a lot he can do here to improve it although he puts a lot of performance energy into it. It's vaguely an improvement on the first performance, I guess? Either way, it's still more enjoyable than Karen and Mark's routine which I still hate and which I HAVE NOW HAD TO WATCH FOUR TIMES WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS? Karen kind of cries again and the audience cheer loudly.

Craig saves Mark and Karen. Darcey saves Jake and Janette. Bruno loves both but also saves Jake and Janette, meaning Len once more has the casting vote. Len snarks that the cha cha cha had little cha cha cha content and the rumba had little rumba content. I love that the semi-final dance-off basically is a case of 'YER ALL SHIT'. He pontificates that one had performance and one had artistry and he saves Mark and Karen as if we needed further proof that his special Head Judge powers needed redacting. It baffles me that Craig is still MEEN JUDGE OMG when Len makes notoriously bad judgements. Every. Series. Jake is glad to have gotten so far as a 42-year old dad. Janette says he's amazing and her friend for life and we even get a best bits montage for some reason. Did a guest performer drop out? His best bits include lack of expression, the best salsa ever TM (except it was too early on to get a perfect score), hips, bum, bad ballroom and more hips and bum.

The audience give them a standing ovation and they dance out to 'Didn't We Almost Have It All' (ouch). Mark is very happy to be in the final, so is Kristina. Frankie can't take much more of this but fortunately only has one more week to take! Caroline doesn't think it will sink in... until training. Hee.

Next week! Finals week! Join Steve then to see if one of the men can overcome their dance-off shame to take the trophy or if we'll get two female winners in a row for the first time since the first two series.

Rumba bah

Week 12 : Top Five Perform (Semi-Final) - 13 December 2014 

Last week was officially jetlag week, as everyone flagged somewhat following the excesses of BLACKPOOL, an actually quite good BLACKPOOL hangover week and the nonsense that was AROUND THE WORLD WEEK. Dancing was mediocre, scores were mediocre, and we got a genuine SHOCK! BOOT! as the Len and Trent mini hatemance concluded in Len saving Simon despite his addiction to dance-offs and Pixie being sent packing.

This week! Semi-finals week! Or, as it’s better known, TWO-DANCE WEEK. Oh joy of joys, I am recapping all the classics this year. [You saw what I had to recap last week, right? - Steve]

We open with a VT about how much everyone wants to get to the final and how sad they are about the death of poor Pixie. Oh well, onwards.

Credits. With hindsight, Judy’s stiffness in the titles should have been a sign of things to come.

Tess and Claud enter on the arms of Aljaž and Trent. Daly dresswatch: white, Grecian. What Winkleman’s wearing: Black, short, off the shoulder. They look a bit like a bride and her slightly embarrassingly drunk naughty bridesmaid, especially as Tess’s hair and make-up are all styled glamour and Claudia’s are a bit quick-fumble-with-a-brush-and-red-lippy-in-Wetherspoon’s toilets. 

The judges’ entrance features Len sweeping the stairs in penance for killing Pixie last week and Craig sporting a tiny, presumably panto-inspired, beard. The stars enter and ye Gods what is Kevin wearing? Some sort of possessed toy soldier thing? Caroline is the only one dancing to the theme tune. Spoilsports.

The first couple of the evening are Jake and Janette. Janette’s wearing crystals round her eyes that make her look like a generic Star Trek alien of the week. Last week they had a good Charleston and Jake was pleased to have had a(nother) comeback. He says their technique for the cha cha needs to be good and clean. Shame no-one told Janette to choreograph that. His kids and their school mates all wish him good luck via a not-product-placement tablet from their school assembly. Then weirdly-not-yet-been-a-contestant Barbara Windsor turns up and dances with him a bit.

Their cha cha is to ‘Boogie Shoes’ and involves Jake wearing sparkly silver shoes and dancing in the ‘Queen Stric’. [That doesn't work at all as a pun. Not even a little bit. - Steve] The dance is generic disco Latin and I think Janette and Jake both basically peaked with the salsa and she’s really struggled to choreograph anything more original since then (although I did like their Charleston and jive). Jake then ends by dancing on a podium with sparks flying from his shoes. He does a lot of shuffling and swivelling and it has at least got some energy about it but whether or not you could identify it as a cha cha without being told that’s what it was is somewhat debatable. I blame Abbey and Aljaž (and the judges with their stupid scoring) for all this disco Latin shit.

Tess thanks Dave Arch, the band and the singers before we go over to the judges. Len calls it bright and lively with a nice mix of disco and cha cha cha. Bruno wishes Kylie and Robbie Williams had been there so it could have been a proper party and his hips were like salsa hips rather than cha cha ones. Craig says it was a bit forced and lacking in finesse and subtlety but at least they have a second chance. Tess burbles about Jake’s hips because: Tess. Darcey says she was impressed with the hips but it needed better leg action. She says it had great attitude.

Up in the Clauditorium, Claudia says the semi-final is when the judges sometimes sort of bother to get strict. Jake is glad to get the first dance out of the way. Scores: 6 (which background commenter Pasha does NOT approve of), 8 (which he is unsure about), 8 (which he approves of), 8 for a total of 30. Claudia reminds us not to vote yet whilst everyone grins in the background and Tristan appears to be a very tall floating bright pink head grinning behind everyone else. It’s eerie.

Frankie and Kevin are next. She’s nervous about the rumba as if you couldn’t guess that. Random members of the public, including a couple of kids playing up to Kevin by saying they’re from Lincolnshire (get away with you, Grimsby isn’t really in Lincolnshire proper), wish them luck on a different not-product-placement tablet. Frankie wants to work harder because of their public support. Wayne and cute baby Bridge, Parker, then come to cheer Frankie up in rehearsals and Parker steals the show again, especially when he makes Kevin do cute faces (*ovaries asplode*).

Their rumba is to the John Lewis version of ‘Somewhere Only We Know) and involves Frankie as a ballerina doll and Kevin as an awkward toy soldier and the music is all plinky plonky and twee and right now I could throttle Brendan Cole with my bare hands. All I want is some filthy dirty rumbas and this series has been a complete disaster on that score. The storyline seems to be that Kevin makes Frankie lose her stiffness through his touch and then she… points into space? And dies? And then lives again? Who knows, nothing about this makes any sense and then he sort of drops her on the floor and then drags her around by her foot and it ends. Not. A. Clue. [I think choreographing Frankie to be deliberately stiff was kind of clever given her problems in Latin, but everything else about this dance did not work for me at all. - Steve]

Tess calls it magical and then calls Kevin a Mexican soldier. Her comments make about as much sense as what we just watched. Bruno says he felt like a child on Christmas morning because it had so much innocence and purity. I dunno, surely a child on Christmas morning is more a waking-up-in-the-small-hours-giddy-and-ripping-through-paper-like-a-thing-possessed or maybe that was just in our household. He says he loves it when people do new things and it wasn’t your usual rumba but he found it refreshing and stunning. Craig says it was a bit sterile as a rumba but it did have an innocence and a beauty. He thought it was quite heavy in places and Tess Brucies about them being in character. STOP LETTING THE PRESENTERS COMMENT. Darcey says the interpretation was different and it was sweet and not FILTHY AND DIRTY like we expect at which Len snarks ‘no we don’t’ because he’s also apparently been baptised in the church of St Brendan of Blessed Purity. He says you have to choreograph with the music they got, which begs the question yet again of who the fuck is choosing the music this series. Rumbas, Tangos and Waltzes – a whole cacophony of wrong song choices (on the other hand, Charlestons have had a more original set of tunes than in the last couple of series).

Brendan gives them a big pat on the back in the Clauditorium for preaching the message. Kevin says their partners are watching so they couldn’t be DIRTY FILTHY and Frankie says they’re happy to still be there. Scores: 7, 8, 9, 10 for a total of 34 and a bemused crowd of pros and celebs in the background trying to figure out how to respond to that.

The third couple of the evening are Mark and Karen. Last week Mark was under pressure and the underdog and under my skin like the irritant he is and he would quite like to win thanks. (No thanks.) Their non-product-placement tablet yet again features members of the public wishing them well and then his family turn up. These VTs are SO BORING. I am not recapping the other two if they’re exactly the same as the first three.

Their Viennese Waltz is to ‘I Got You Babe’ and starts on the overused swing of twee dances. Mark’s wearing his usual trying-to-be-romantic-but-hitting-cheeseball-instead grin along with a pale grey suit (Karen is in a pukey pink taffeta thing) and actually looks quite nervous throughout. It’s a very boring, kind-of-competent in the feet but with flappy arms kind of affair and as thoroughly average as the majority of his routines with the added ick of twee musical arrangements and lighting. We’re only three dances in and I feel like I’ve been force-fed candy floss to the point that my teeth are squeaking. Still, this show is relentless in its attempts to MAKE MARK WRIGHT HAPPEN so it gets a sort of standing ovation and Tess tells us how much the crowd love Mark Wright.

Craig says it lacked some grace within the transitions and it needed to be smoother. He says he can see Mark’s worked on his hands but they’re a little over floral. He says it was endearing and the chocolate box thing would normally make him feel sick but he liked it. Tess asks Darcey if Mark has improved. He has? Shocker. Darcey says it was sweet and charming but it could have had more glide and smoothness, using his supporting thigh to push through but Mark has worked really hard. Len reminds us that Mark has had NO DANCE EXPERIENCE but thinks he might be in the final and he had drive throughout. Bruno says he likes his dainty hands and it’s hard to change pace in the dance, even for pros, and he did his best. Tess reminds us about MARK’S FUCKING JOURNEY some more. In the Clauditorium, Claudia says she loves it when Mark cries. He says it’s not going to happen and she says ‘we’ll see about that’. Heh. Scores: 8, 8, 9, 8 for a total of 33. Claudia points out Craig gave Mark his highest score of the night so far.

Simon and Kristina are fourth after killing Pixie, the monsters. I’m not recapping the VT (shock horror Blue turn up at the end) so on with the dancing. Their samba to ‘I Like to Move It’ opens with a cartwheel that starts well until Simon fluffs the landing and stagger around a bit. They’re dancing faster than the music, so presumably they danced to the original, which bears little resemblance to this version. Bless the singers because we know they don’t get long to rehearse and they do get a rough ride round these parts, but this is dire – too slow, the singer is over-exaggerating the accent like he’s a comedian in the 1970s and he has not the tiniest sense of the rhythm of the track. After the mauling they gave to Love Shack last week as well. Did the 90s die in vain, show? The dance? Never really recovers from that opening fail, to be honest and is quite stilted and awkward and completely out of time with the song and they’re totally out of sync with each other and then Kristina runs around Simon really fast like she’s in the playground playing kiss chase and it’s just an embarrassment all round, really. Tonight is such a treat!

Tess says ‘What about that then?’ Careful, Daly, you’re one word away from invoking the spectre of Savile. Darcey says it started well (?) until they got out of sync but she liked the solo work and thought it had a good, relaxed vibe. Len says it was a shame they made a mistake because he likes watching Simon move it move it. Bruno says they lost the feel of the samba and the major cock-up meant they couldn’t get back into it. Craig basically repeats what everyone else said but unlike the others, gets booed for it. Len says to do that dance again if they’re in the dance-off because it was terrific. In the Clauditorium, the watching pros seem to have imbibed all the booze and are getting rowdy. Scores: 6, 9 (!), 8, 7 for a total of 30.  Kristina tries to keep a lid on her personality by saying it’s the semi-final and they have to be picky and only a week to go and that glitterball might be yours Kristina keep it together girl you can do it.

The final couple are Caroline and Pasha. Last week they won the leaderboard but given their competition, that wasn’t so hard to do. Their VT revolves around Caroline finding ballroom harder than Latin and then stuff I’m not recapping. Their foxtrot is to ‘Diamonds’ and features a backdrop of both the jewel and the geometric shape in case you were in any doubt. Caroline is wearing a silver outfit, with fringing as a skirt because she can’t get away from it. The music seems somewhat slow and smooth for a foxtrot and might have worked better as a rumba, but at least they seem to be into the emotion of it. There’s a part where Caroline arches her back in a way that looks really uncomfortable, a bit where their legs get tangled up and a couple of messy spins but it’s probably the best of a bad bunch so far, even if nothing to really write home about.

Len says it was sparkly but not quite flawless and there was a little slip, but he enjoyed the whole thing. Bruno says she gave the most emotional intensity he’s seen in a foxtrot and she really feels the music, but the emotion sometimes meant she lost technique. She gets a bit teary and Pasha says she is still in character. Craig says her head placement is inconsistent and her back doesn’t arch properly but he loves watching her style it out and moving on from her mistakes. Darcey says it had a lot of emotion for a foxtrot but she needs to watch her eye-level and her frame.

In the Clauditorium, Claudia says it’s hard because the celebs have worked hard all week and they haven’t earned a million points. Pasha and Caroline say they loved the emotion of the song. Even if it would have been better in a rumba. Scores: 8, 9, 9, 9 for a shit-someone-has-to-get-a-decent-score-in-the-semi total of 35. Natalie cheers and Claudia says she likes how supportive everyone is this series.

Mid-episode leaderboard check:

Caroline and Pasha 35
Frankie and Kevin 34
Mark and Karen 33
Jake and Janette 30
Simon and Kristina 30

The underwhelming set of scores gets a perfectly withering stare from Aliona in response.

Training VTs for the second dance? Everyone is finding it HARD. Not as hard as recapping these BORING BORING VTs, I’m telling you (god, to think we used to recap all 89 hours of The X Factor final. No stamina these days, we tellybitchers).

Claudia says we’re at the half-way point but have no oranges, so she’s brought beef. As long as it’s not Beefy Botham, we’re probably safe with that. Jake and Janette’s second dance of the evening now and it’s time for the annual judges’ holodeck slot where they comment on the celebs. They remember Jake’s hips and bum in his salsa and samba and say he is better at acting than technique but his ballroom is kind of rubbish all round. Jake says he prefers Latin (I quite like that this series has seen the white contestants more comfortable with Latin and the Black/Asian/Mixed-race contestants more comfortable with Ballroom. If nothing else, it seems to have slowed the NATURAL RHYTHM comments down).

Their Viennese Waltz is to ‘When A Man Loves a Woman’ and it’s slightly less twee than Marks, more to do with the better staging, costuming (Jake in black, Janette in blue – although there’s a flesh coloured panel over her bosom that looks somewhat… odd) and song choice than the dancing – and a bit to do with Jake not grinning his way through it like a CERTAIN SOMEONE. The routine isn’t particularly ambitious but it doesn’t seem particularly error-ridden either.

Bruno says it was dignified and elegant and a stiff upper lip is fine for the VW but you shouldn’t have a stiff neck and Jake was tense in his neck and head throughout. Craig says he enjoyed it more but it was his weakest dance. Contradiction much? He says Jake is better in the informal romantic hold than the Viennese ‘proper’. Tess asks Darcey if Jake’s ballroom is as good as his Latin and she says maybe not but his frame has improved and Janette gave him a complicated routine. She doesn’t want him to doubt himself and if he goes into the final he needs to believe he is a good ballroom dancer. Len does a ‘from Albert Square to Berkley Square’ that gets the silence of disdain it deserves and says he thinks Jake’s head is too full of what he needs to remember that he isn’t letting himself really dance.

Claudia asks Jake which of tonight’s routines he preferred. He says he liked doing his VW… in rehearsals. Heh. Scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 for a total of 31 and one more than his cha cha score.

Kevin and Frankie now. Their jouney has been lovely ballroom, ropey Latin and triumphing over terrible tango song choices. Darcey says she is great at character – cut to Frankie worrying about getting into character. Hey ho.

Their Argentine Tango is to an extract from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony which is… different. It works though, as it means they can get into the mood of the dance. There’s some nice leg work from Frankie in the opening and many of the static bits are good although some of the moving across the floor seems a little uncomfortable. There’s a bit at the end where her legs buckle when it seems that they should be straight but it ends with her dramatically falling onto Kevin’s shoulder and it’s the best of the night so far, although that’s faint praise, I know. (I did enjoy it for the most part) [Me too - on the whole I found the second half of the show much more enjoyable than the first. Anyone would think they front-loaded all the shit dances to get them out of the way or something. - Steve]

Craig says it brought some drama and excitement to proceedings but the transitions weren’t entirely seamless and her free leg wasn’t whipping enough and she sometimes looked in control rather than Kevin, but he still loved it and it was a-ma-zing. Darcey says it was superb although notes there were a couple of places where technique slipped. Len loved the mood and Bruno says it is difficult to interpret such well-known music but it was brilliant.

In the Clauditorium Frankie says she loves Bruno this week and the Argentine Tango is her father’s favourite dance. Claudia reminds us Frankie hasn’t been in the dance-off and Frankie isn’t especially keen on going there. Scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 for a total of 38.

Mark and Karen next and they’re wearing pastels oh joy and Tess trots out the old ‘Marky no-moves is Marky all-the-moves’ line which I think we’ve heard some iteration of every single bloody week so far. The judges remind us that he’s ever so nice and he works ever so hard although they say his timing is a bit shit. Craig eulogises about Mark’s Charleston and then Len says the public will like him because he’s gone from zero to hero. I had no opinion about Mark Wright before he was on this show. He has gone on a ‘journey’ for me alright, but not in the way the judges say. Apparently Mark and Karen’s rumba will be ‘different’.  Oh goody I can’t wait.

The storyline of their routine to ‘Fields of Gold’ is that they’re just two innocent kids lying barefoot in a cornfield, and then by the magic of a pair of Nicky Westlife cast-off trousers that leave nothing to the imagination, Karen seduces Mark into performing a slightly stuttering contemporary dance and sticking his tongue out intermittently and clutching his side like he’s got a stitch. Ugh. I hated every moment of that. [Me too. It's not that I dislike contemporary dance, because I enjoy So You Think You Can Dance as much as the next person, but this sort of thing has no place on Strictly. - Steve]

Tess says it was lovely because she’s a sap/liked the tight trousers a bit too much (delete as appropriate). Darcey says it was unbelievably emotional but she’d have liked more actual rumba. Seriously. Stop fucking with the dance of, er, fucking. Len says if it was a school report, he’d say good effort, at which he gets resoundingly booed and he says it needed more rumba content but he liked the romance of the dance. Bruno says it was a like a nice roll in the hay which we all like and he played the storyline well and he loves contemporary dance (me too, Bruno, but not in a dance that isn’t actually supposed to be one). Tess reminds us that RUMBA IS HARD FOR MEN and that they’re terribly exposed. In those trousers, yes. Craig says it was better than the previous dance and he’s happy that they upset Len and he liked Karen’s choreography and he’s up for breaking all the traditions and seeing rumba in a different way hallelujah praise the Lord Brendan for showing me the light about the evils of the DIRTY FILTHY rumba and enabling me to see that it can be REDEEMED.

Up in the Clauditorium Karen cries that she’s sorry for letting Mark down and Kevin shouts that it was brilliant choreography and Claudia instructs him to come over and hug her. Pro final meltdowns are here. Scores: 9, 8, 8, 8 for a total of 33. Oh Craig, you weirdo.

I was so excited that it was time for the final couple and then I remembered Simon and Kristina are still to come. Sorry, Simon and Kristina!

Tess reminds us they were the first couple to score three 10s because that’s a thing now. The judges talk about his journey and all the times he’s been in the bottom two but been saved. Simon says he’s had mixed experiences with Ballroom. And also Latin, although he doesn’t say that.

Their foxtrot is to ‘My Guy’, which is much more the kind of music I’d expect. The styling and routine are straight from Kristina’s book of Hollywood classics, but as she does this thing well, it works. It’s steady, sweet and smiley and a million times better than their samba. It isn’t the kind of thing that will set the world on fire, but it’s perfectly decent and should give Kristina a good chance of reaching another final and giving us another exciting showdance before crashing out in third with much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Len says they have probably booked a ticket to the final and Kristina screams ‘oh my God’. Bruno says Simon has a natural affinity with ballroom although there was a slight hesitation but neither Simon or Kristina seem to know what he means. Craig says simply ‘you’re back’ and Darcey says it would be crazy if he wasn’t in the final. Scores: 9, 10, 10, 9 for a total of 38 and a very happy Kristina.

ALMOST THERE. Fucking two dance night. Claudia asks Tess if the last couple is ‘finally us?’ Tess says ‘thankfully not’. And just when we thought she’d gotten over her ‘ooh, icky lesbian vibes’ reaction to that.

The judges think Caroline was a bit rubbish in week one but has then been great and they try to make the mistake in the American Smooth look like a disaster rather than something she actually recovered well from. They want her to improve her frame in ballroom but think the salsa will show her personality well. Caroline is excited because Pasha’s thrown everything into the routine. She talks about the dance getting her into the final because she’s so used to X Factor and its 'songs to get you to the final' theme.

Their salsa is to ‘Maria’ by Ricky Martin and sees them both in hot pink sparkles and Caroline’s hair looking very Caroline Diaz in There’s Something About Mary. It’s fast, energetic and joyous and whilst it may not be perfect, it certainly livened up a dull evening of dance. [Definitely. It almost made everything we'd sat through to get to this point worthwhile. Almost. - Steve] Bruno sings the lyrics to ‘She bangs’ and says Caroline is a super-charged engine running on sex appeal. Craig says it was very good in a total fakeout I’m so giving it a 10 way. Darcey says it was one hot salsa and Len says it was full of rhythm.

They shimmy up on the Clauditorium and Caroline’s hair falls out and looks even worse. There’s always something in the fashion stakes out to scupper you, huh, Caroline? Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 40 because they had to give at least one out before the final, let’s face it.

Leaderboard:

Caroline and Pasha 35 + 40 =75
Frankie and Kevin 34 + 38 = 72
Simon and Kristina 30 + 38 = 68
Mark and Karen 33 + 33 = 66
Jake and Janette 30 + 31 = 61

Shall we recap? Jake and Janette’s disco cha-cha hitting a bum note and their steady but unremarkable Viennese Waltz; Frankie and Kevin’s weird rumba-John-Lewis-thing and their much better Argentine Tango; Mark and Karen’s two dances full of vomit; Simon and Kristina’s samba shambles and their Kristina-classic-by-numbers foxtrot; Caroline and Pasha’s moody foxtrot and exuberant salsa and it getting a 40 because something had to.

Tess deigns to let Claudia dance with her after all, they remind us to vote, and we're outta there. Tomorrow night! Paloma Faith and more emoting about the final! Join me then!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

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

- In retrospect, Len saying the waltzathon was key to last week's show was somewhat silly.
- Mark, by his own admission, does not know how to lead.
- Claudia thinks it would be better to go out in week one than in the quarter finals. She does know that nobody goes out in week one, right?
- Our Craig replacements for this week are Tim and Judy, which is a SIGNIFICANT improvement on last week.
- Judy played tennis with Anton at Wimbledon. Apparently he is “equally as bad” at tennis as she is at dancing.
- Judy thinks that if she’d been penalised for lifts when she was on the show, her scores would’ve been around zero.
- Tim still hasn’t forgotten Craig’s “dirty nappy” comment.
- Judy’s Colombian daughter-in-law was very happy that Caroline’s Argentine tango used traditional music. 
- Friend of the blog Mark is through to the Superfan Quiz final. Well done Mark!
- Pixie loved all of her dances and can’t pick a favourite.
- Equally, she can’t say who she wants to win, but she hopes it’s one of the girls. (So, Frankie or Caroline then.)
- Karen Hardy’s midwife is called Maud.
- Janette’s dance teacher when she was starting out was really into lifts. This makes a lot of sense.
- Jake and Janette weren’t that fussed about finishing last in the waltzathon.
- Karen Hardy is officially Against Illegal Lifts, because she thinks you should save them for the show dance, when they will be special and Not Illegal.
- Karen Hardy would have sided with Len on Sunday and sent Pixie and Trent home.
- Junior dancer Maddy falling over doing the Viennese Waltz is adorable.
- Jamie and Maddy did well in the Open World championships last weekend.  Hooray!
- Mark saw lots of newspaper articles on Saturday saying that he was the favourite to go. What the hell kind of Saturday papers is he even reading?
- Zoe will be voting for Mark and Karen's reaction last week to get Monkseal's Safety Sex Face of the series award.
- Karen Hauer prefers classy, contemporary-esque rumbas. BOO.
- One of the lesser-known reasons why two-dance weeks are harder is because you have twice as many VTs to film, which means you get even less time to rehearse.
- Tristan and Iveta are dancing together for the first time in this week’s pro-dance. She’s having a little bit of trouble understanding his accent.
- McBusted are kind of unruly, as Bruce knows only too well.
- The only time Harry Judd dances these days is when he’s at home and alone.
- Friend of the show and future ringer Bonnie Langford is more encouraging to the dancing teachers than Robin.
- According to Kristina, you know that your frame is right when it hurts.
- Kristina thinks SImon being in the dance-off three times is some sort of record.  It isn't.
- Frankie refers to the leg hooks in the Argentine tango as “the noodly bits”.
- Darcey thinks any dance off is a surprise.  Not sure she's got the hang of this show yet.
- Darcey’s favourite dance of the series is Mark’s charleston. *pinches bridge of nose, sighs deeply*
- Vicky Gill waits until she sees tapes of the dances before finalising her designs, which means that sometimes her staff in the workroom are getting a bit antsy midweek.
- Wardrobe's latest attempt to scupper Caroline involves using fringing instead of a skirt.
- Vicky Gill’s mum, Emily, was a sample machinist and taught her how to sew.
- Iveta and Anton managed 42 New Yorkers in the pro challenge, but five of them were disqualified, leaving them third overall. (This was all Anton’s fault, Iveta couldn’t have been working any harder.)
- Pasha is not willing to kiss Craig for a 10.
- Everybody wants Caroline’s haircut.
- Pasha is prone to sugar highs.
- Glasses Kevin lip-syncing to ‘One Night In Heaven’ by M People made us feel all funny inside.
- Everyone Suzi Perry knows who did Strictly has fallen in love.  Showmances galore!
- Suzi Perry would be quite interested in doing Strictly if she got the offer.
- Heather Small does not relish the title of “Queen Of The Dance-Offs” - she holds the female record for most appearances in the dance-off (four times), although Mark Benton and John Barnes jointly hold the male record with the same number.
- Christine Bleakley could probably still remember the absolute basics of the dances she learnt, but doesn’t really get much call to do them any more.
- Mark will be doing his rumba barefoot, and believes he is the first contestant to attempt this. 
- Anton’s mum worked two jobs and never had a day off sick.
- Anton would pick Ann Widdecombe over Kara Tointon as a dance partner every time. The liar.
- Anton does not see the point of the samba.
- Anton wears tailored trousers on holiday.
- Anton thinks Darren Bennett is the smelliest pro dancer.
- Frankie would’ve preferred not to have to do a rumba at all, but now she sort of loves it.
- Suzi Perry thought Pixie was going to win. Heather Small blames Trent for her ouster and is now dead to me.
- The show REALLY wants us to think that Mark is the only contestant who hadn’t done any dancing before he signed up for the show.
- Suzi Perry wants Caroline to win, Heather Small wants Caroline or Simon and Christine Bleakley wants Mark to win.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Pixie dusted

Week 11: Top 6 Results - 7 December 2014

Perhaps to make up for the total absence of professional dancers the last time Annie Lennox was on this show, we open with a professional routine to 'Here Comes The Rain Again' featuring Ola, Janette, Kristina, Karen, Pasha, Trent, Aljaž and...some random guy whom I don't think we have seen before. They're dancing on a set of four squares of staggered heights, originally just whirling around and brandishing umbrellas until it becomes clear that they're actually standing in water, so they all start splashing around and everyone's clothes get progressively wetter and tighter and the audience basically start whooping "off! off! off!" like this is what the wrap party would look like if it were left to Tess and Darcey to organise it. Ain't nobody paying much attention to the dancing, is all I'm saying. (On that note: Pasha's shirt is open practically to the navel. Thank you, wardrobe.) It mashes into 'Umbrella' halfway through, but by this point nobody is paying much attention to the music, either. Well, you can't fault the show for giving its audience exactly what they want, I suppose. Especially (spoiler) considering what else they're planning to give us tonight.

Tess and Claudia turn up in bright yellow raincoats (arguably a more flattering outfit choice than 99 per cent of what Tess gets given to wear, amirite viewers?) and Claudia explains that the stranger at the feast was world Latin champion (he's very good at declension, I hear) Neil Jones, who presumably was filling in the spot that Kevin would have taken if he hadn't been too poorly to rehearse this week. The judges walk on (and I do mean "walk", although I think Darcey would prefer to be carried on in a sedan chair at this point), and Tess promises us OneRepublic later.

First, however, a recap of last night, though personally I'm not sure I'm all that keen to revisit it. It takes the form of somebody's dubious fanfic wherein Craig plays the schoolmaster and takes attendance backstage. It doesn't really lead to anything, although when you consider the places it could have ended up, perhaps we should all be very grateful for that. Everyone talks about how they never dreamed they'd make it this far, Hot Greg The Floor Manager corrals everybody into place, anonymous fingers slide up the faders, Tess looks at her script, everybody goes out on stage and does all the things we saw them doing last night. New material of note: Pasha does counting. It is precious.

After a quick leaderboard refresher, Tess announces the first two couples who are safe: Mark and Karen, and Caroline and Pasha. The former are entirely shocked, and I guess that's understandable - pretty much everyone on Twitter thought they'd be going tonight, and I'd imagine Mark and Karen thought it too. The first couple in the dance-off is...Pixie and Trent. Pixie winces, but she's still smiling, and Trent grins even as the light over their heads turns red. I expected more of a reaction from them, but then I suppose they haven't really reacted to anything at all throughout the competition, so in a weird sort of way it makes sense that they'd take something like this in their stride. Janette, on the other hand, looks horrified - and since Monkseal informs me that Janette was one of the favourites to win her season of So You Think You Can Dance until she got booted around this point, I assume she understands what they might be feeling. (Either that or now she's super-worried that she and Jake are going to be the couple competing against them, and that history is about to repeat itself.) Tess asks them how they're feeling, and Pixie giggles that she's scared. Her skin is a lot thicker than I expected. Tess asks Craig if Pixie needs to sort her legs out for the dance-off, and Craig says "only slightly", and adds that Pixie has been one of the best dancers of the entire series. He tells them to "change nothing - just don't get it wrong!" Tess babyvoices that Pixie is shaking. Hush, Tess.

Up in the Clauditorium, Mark blathers on about being the underdog and says he was "astatic" (AARGH STOP THAT) to have his name called first. Caroline says that she thinks every week could be her last week, since everyone else is so good. She says Pasha is brilliant and, well, no objections here.

OneRepublic appear and sing 'Counting Stars'. I know that people who bore on about the pre-recorded Sunday show and the "pretence" of it being live are the worst, but at the same time, I like the show to meet us half way in terms of suspension of disbelief, and it really doesn't help to have Trent dancing to this (with Kristina) in an entirely different outfit from the one he was wearing about 30 seconds ago. I mean, I'm sure it's theoretically possible for it to have happened in real time, but we all know it didn't and this sort of thing just forces us to focus on it.

After that, it's time for Len's Lens. The first subject up for discussion is Pixie's legs (and I get the impression that they filmed this before the reveal that Pixie was in the dance-off), and Len wants to mention that Pixie had great cha cha leg action at the beginning of her dance, but it got weaker as the dance went on. Darcey wants to gush about Mark's transitions and top line again. Craig backhands Simon again about Kristina choreographing a routine that doesn't require him to get his hands right, and Len adds that this is exactly the job that the pros are there to do in the first place. We also get to see Craig repairing his five paddle with duct tape, and after that Bruno wants to look at Jake doing Les Dawson face in excruciating detail.

Next, Tess has the results for the final three couples. Frankie and Kevin are safe, and Kevin's screams of ecstasy can probably be heard in Sharm el-Sheikh. Not bad for someone who was bedridden with the flu a few days ago. So it's down to Jake vs Simon for the other spot in the dance-off, and of course it goes to Simon, because duh. Tess tells them that they didn't look awfully surprised, and Simon's all "can you blame me?" [I like the self-awareness and general apparent lack of diva-ness among this year's batch.  Although divas are always fun, too - Rad] Darcey advises Simon to just relax and enjoy the routine in the dance-off.

In the Clauditorium, we revisit the "Frankie is always practising for the dance-off" topic for what is, I think, the third week in a row. Frankie's sniffling a little bit, so I think this week she really did think she was going to be there. (I wonder what the fireworks would've been like tonight if it had been a Pixie vs Frankie dance-off.) She tells Claudia that Latin isn't her strong point, and thank everyone who voted. Kevin says that the waltzathon really helped them on the score front, but they still knew they were in a precarious position, so they're both very relieved to be safe. Jake adds that he doesn't think anyone is safe at this point (although I'd say after this that he and Frankie are about as safe as they come), and reveals that he's got an entire week off EastEnders coming up so he can actually devote a decent amount of time to practice the two dances that he'll have to learn next week. I'm glad he learned something from Scott Maslen, anyway.

And speaking of two dances, here's a VT of everyone talking about how difficult that's going to be. Points of note: Mark has got his t-shirt on back-to-front. Simon isn't even sure that it's physically going to be possible to learn two dances. I'm not being funny, Simon, but Holly Valance managed it, and nobody else in the history of this show has ever been as averse to exertion as she was. [Possibly Ben 'always time for a nice sit-down' Cohen - Rad]

Afterwards, Tess 'n' Claud are with the two dance-off-bound couples, and Claudia reminds us that both of them scored 35 for their individual dances, so it's very much all to play for here - although she does then immediately bring up that this is Simon's third time in the dance-off as opposed to Pixie's first. Simon says that he's enjoyed every single moment of the competition, and Kristina says that she's extremely proud of what he's achieved. They head down to the dancefloor while Tess turns to Pixie and Trent, where Pixie says that she'd be "super-sad" to go tonight, but Simon always does a great job. Trent says he's been really lucky on his "first season out" to be paired with someone like Pixie (and god I hope they do still ask Trent back, because if he's gone next year and I have to put up with Robin, I will not be amused), and he just wants her to give it her all out there.

Simon and Kristina repeat their American smooth. Both of them dance it with more gusto than they gave it the first time around, and I think they're both treating it as the coda to their Strictly experience at this point. I still have my issues with Simon's transitions, but it's a very solid performance, and the advantage of being in the dance-off is that it gives Kristina a second attempt at getting her heel up for that closing lift. (It's still not entirely clean this time, but it's a lot smoother than before.) Then Pixie and Trent reprise their cha cha cha, and they have the bigger problem here because it's much easier to fix "botched lift" in an evening than it is to sort out "not doing the legs properly", but at least Pixie manages to keep her foot on the floor for that drag-swing manoeuvre this time, so Len can't count it as a lift. Again, they both give it their all, so there's not an awful lot to choose between the two routines.

So it's over to the judges. Craig says it's tough, but he'd like to save Pixie and Trent. Darcey wishes she didn't have to make this choice because both couples are outstanding, but based on tonight's dance, she would like to save Simon and Kristina (possibly because of TEH GUNZ, although she doesn't actually specify this). Bruno says it was great to see both routines again, but he wants to vote for overall dance ability, so he votes to save Pixie and Trent. So Len gets the casting vote again, and says that he has to judge this on the dance-off performances alone (why, exactly? Bruno just openly stated that he was voting for the dancer with the better overall ability, so I'm pretty sure there's nothing in the rules that says Len can't take the entire competition into account if he wants to), and continues that it's "hard as a judge but harder as a person". Oh GET ON WITH IT. Judged on the strength of tonight's routine, however, he votes to save Simon and Kristina. Simon drops to the floor in a mock-faint, and I get that he really didn't expect to be the one staying, but it also means that the couple who are actually going home end up being the ones to initiate the consoling goodbye hug, and that doesn't make him look great. It's not your moment, Simon. Sorry.

Tess tells Pixie that they never expected to see her going home at this point, and that the competition won't be the same without her. Pixie says she's gutted to be going home now, but she's had the best time ever, and while she's sad not to get to learn the salsa and the American smooth, she's just pleased that she decided to do the experience. She also adds that she couldn't have asked for a better partner (HINT FUCKING HINT, pro-dancer casting team, don't even think about giving Trent the Anya treatment next year) and that she loved the entire "class of 2014". Darcey is in tears, as though this isn't at least partially her doing. Tess prompts Pixie to say whether she'll miss dancing with Trent, and Pixie says she really wants to keep dancing with him somehow, and Trent offers to "throw in some lessons". He echoes that he couldn't have asked for a better partner either, because she's talented, hardworking, and genuinely sweet. (This seems like as good a place for this sidebar as any: I didn't think I was going to like Pixie going in to this series, but she's actually won me over. She seems like a genuinely nice person, if a little dizzy, and she probably struck the best balance between precision and performance of anybody this year, so she probably would've got my votes had she made the final. I doubt that's much consolation for at this stage, but there you go.)

Claudia arrives and reminds us to tune in to It Takes Two on Monday for Pixie and Trent's final farewell, and also that next Saturday's show will be starting a bit earlier (6:50pm, synchronise your watches), and Pixie and Trent have their last dance to 'When You're Gone'. The other dancers flood the floor to wish her well, and we close on a nice prominent shot of Kevin's arse, to remind us that there is still some good left in the world.

From there, we just have the post-results confessionals to get through, and they're very much as you'd expect: a lot of praising of Pixie in hushed tones as though she's actually dead, and Mark saying that Pixie is "going to be a sad miss" (as much as Mark's mangled English annoys me, I do quite like the mental picture of Pixie as Miss Havisham that this conjured up in my head). And that's it: join Rad next week for the semi-finals, as we see who gets the spot in the final that we all assumed was earmarked for Pixie. Advance warning: if it's Mark, I may be capslocking in fury quite a lot when I come to recap the final. I'm not saying that should influence how you vote, but just bear it in mind.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Jetlag week

Week 11: Top 6 Perform - 6 December 2014

Last week: been around the world, and ay, ay, ay. Our "whirlwind tour of the globe" (America twice, some bits of Europe, and isolated stop-offs in Asia and South America. Suck it, Oceania!) was all flash and no photograph, and Mark got his passport stamped in the dance-off for the second time, but was saved over Sunetra, who it turns out only had a one-way ticket. This week: we're one step away from the semi-final, which apparently means we need to see black-and-white footage of all the celebrities in jumpers and big coats, wiping their eyes like they're about to ask us to give just £2 a month to help them find a home in time for Christmas. As troublesome as theme weeks can be, at least they give the pre-titles VT some sort of purpose, rather than this half-arsed "ooh it's getting a bit near the end, better start talking about my nerves since it worked so well for Abbey Clancy" hogwash.

Titles! Simon's hair at the start of the series really was awful, wasn't it?

There's no opening pro-dance this week, so we're straight in to the arrival of Tess and Claudia. Daly Dresswatch: floor-length black gown with cross-my-heart straps. What Winkleman's Wearing: also black, but strapless and accentuated with gold lame around the edges and a weird gold exo-ribcage thing going on. That Tess appears to be more flatteringly dressed than Claudia is our first indicator that tonight is going to be a weird one, I suspect. Tess and Claud (I feel that we are friends now, I'm sure she won't mind) remind us that we have a waltzathon tonight to look forward to in addition to the regular dances. Remember that this means the pimp slot isn't such a great place to be in this week, because it means you have no time to get changed and you have to do the group dance while still knackered from your individual routine, although I suppose at least a waltz is less physically draining than the swing-a-ding was. At least, I assume so. The most energetic thing I did yesterday was carry my shopping home from the supermarket.

The judges trot on, and I'm pretty sure that none of them are putting any effort in to this bit any more, but they only have to do it twice more after tonight, and then hopefully we can consign it into the bins of Strictly history along with rock 'n' roll, the dance troupe and finals where everyone was given a clear finishing position [and Around the World week if there is a God - Rad]. And here are our Strictly stars: Jake and Janette, Pixie and Trent, Mark and Karen, Frankie and Kevin, Caroline and Pasha, and Simon and Kristina. I like how almost everyone has to run a little bit to hit their marks before the end of the music now there are so few of them left; in particular, Caroline and Pasha skipping the last few steps is adorable.

Claudia reminds us that everyone remaining has been in the top two spots on the leaderboard at some point, so this could be our closest final yet (except this was also true of the top six last year, and the year before, so maybe not). Up first tonight are Simon and Kristina, but before we see them dance, Tess asks Len what we need to see from our couples tonight to see them through to next week's semi-final. Len, true to his love of all things sport-related, says that it's like a football match in that it's a game of two halves. Not really, Len, because there are 40 points up for grabs in the first round, and only six in the second. It's more like a game of 20/23 and 3/23, but I appreciate that, while more mathematically sound, that doesn't make for such a catchy soundbite. Len declares that the waltzathon can change everything, while experience teaches us that it will probably change very little.

Simon was very pleased with how regional travel week went for him, and is now starting to get anxious because the final is in sight, but he could also go home any point. To be fair, Simon, we've all been thinking that latter point since week three, because with the best will in the world, it seems that you don't have masses of public support and need to be up the top of the leaderboard to stay out of danger. To prepare for their American smooth this week, Kristina takes Simon to the West End to see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and afterwards they meet Robert Lindsay (and Dancing On Ice all-star Bonnie Langford, but she doesn't get much of a look in) on stage to ask how one learns to be debonaire. Robert tells him that "it's just something that I act" (helpful!) and then gives Simon some pointers on how to descend a staircase in a rakish fashion. [Robert Lindsay as the epitome of smooth was such a random VT storyline.  #justicefornigelhavers - Rad]

I would like to open by pointing out how much I hate everything that Simon is wearing for this routine: a white blazer, black shirt, red bow tie and black trousers doesn't make you look devil-may-care, it makes you look like you're about to do magic tricks at my kid's birthday party. Still, at least Kristina looks stunning in her red va-va-voom dress, so that's something. They're dancing to the Michael Bublé (ugh) version of 'Heartache Tonight', and this routine feels like a bit of a step backwards for Simon, progress-wise. Whereas most of his recent dances have had a fluidness and a natural feel to them, this one feels a bit Ikea, like he's learnt the dance piecemeal and is slotting it together only to discover it doesn't fit quite as smoothly as the diagram indicates it should. Kristina, of course, is selling it like Black Friday, but even she's not immune to the troubles of this dance: she has trouble getting her leg up onto Simon's shoulder for the final lift and there's a bit of a flap while she tries to sort it out.

Len opens by calling them "the boy from Blue and the lady in red" and mentioning the "swing and sway" and "a nice mix of steps", which - as much as I love her - is the sort of critique that Alesha used to give, which sort of suggests that Len's heart isn't really in this series any more. Bruno says that they had "the wow factor" and that he "could open in Vegas" with that number. Open house, maybe - he's certainly dressed like he's about to sell you a timeshare. Bruno calls it "risky", because it went from showbiz to classic foxtrot, and it's very hard to get the transitions right, which is probably why there were all those moments where we saw Simon's expression change clunkily from one state to another. Bruno did spot the mistake in the panché and says that it was actually Kristina's fault. (Are we sure it wasn't the fault of Jake's backing dancer from last week? Might as well blame everything on her while we're at it.) Craig thinks Kristina gave Simon some clever choreography that allowed her to protect him from the trickier bits, but he thought Simon lost his frame when he went into hold - but he thinks Simon has come "an amazing long journey". Darcey thinks it had phenomenal footwork all the way through, but she thinks Simon could've been looser in the elbows.

They scoot up to the Clauditorium, where Claudia says that the judges have a tendency to get "pernickety" in the quarter-final, though (spoiler) we'll see later on just how un-pernickety they're prepared to be. Kristina says that it was great to be able to showcase what Simon is capable of. Scores are in: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35. Claudia asks if they're happy with that, and Simon starts on the whole "the points are just a bonus, I'm just here for the love of dance" nonsense.

On second, we have Caroline and Pasha. Caroline gushes that last week was her favourite moment from the whole series, and that Craig saying he could see her in the final has given her a massive confidence boost. Caroline says that being so close to the end would make it horrible to "leave right now", and I'm sure that's not the first time she's phrased it like that, which means they're either repeating bits in her VTs or she's got some sort of side-bet going on with Will Young about how often she can drop his song titles into the show. Caroline is experiencing a bit of a comedown going from the charleston to the Argentine tango, because she doesn't feel it plays to her natural strengths. Pasha decides to invite one of Caroline's friends along to lift her spirits. It's Olly Murs, and *fast-forwards*

(Sorry, but I have my limits, and recapping something with Olly Murs in it definitely exceeds them.)

They're dancing to 'La Cumparsita', both dressed entirely in shades of blue and purple, which is a very flattering colour for both of them, although I hate the way they've slicked Caroline's hair back. The dance gets off to a good start, although Caroline is perhaps slightly too light and delicate for this particular genre - that said, there's some nimble footwork and some impressive lifts. However, there's a bit around halfway in where Caroline looks like she might have forgotten what she's supposed to do next, because her face goes a bit pale and she starts staring at her feet in a manner that doesn't seem like it was part of the choreography. She recovers, and so does the routine, but then it goes into a leg-hooking segment that just looks really untidy to me. Pasha's mic is on at the end, so we hear Caroline wailing "I'm sorry!", so I would imagine at least a small part of that routine did not go according to plan.

Bruno tells Caroline that if she were a violin, she'd be a Stradivarius, because she's capable of magic when handed to an expert player. Bruno thinks the lifts were the best he's seen all series. Craig says that she lost balance twice, but it was a thrilling routine. Darcey thinks Caroline achieved the mood and intensity, and she never sees any effort in those lifts. Len gets a bit oleaginous about it so I don't really want to transcribe what he said. Let's just say he liked it and move straight on to the Clauditorium, where Pasha frantically covers that the emotional look on Caroline's face at the end was her being "so in character". Caroline says that Pasha told her for this routine that she'd have to love him, but also hate him, and Caroline found that difficult, though she doesn't specify which of the two was more problematic. Claudia liked it when Pasha stroked Caroline's face, because it inspired her next batch of fanfic. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39.

Up next, we have Pixie and Trent. Pixie loved how elegant her Viennese waltz was last week (if you try not to look at Trent and his lederhosen friends doing the hokey cokey in the background). This week they've got the cha cha cha, but she's been struggling with some of the moves, so Trent decides to take her somewhere to remind her how far she's come. The UK Top 40 headquarters? No, wait, that would be how far she's fallen. Instead, he takes her back to her old primary school where the kids put on a little dance display for them, and then declare it "the best assembly ever", which is adorable.

Thus inspired by the life-giving energies of infants, Pixie and Trent perform their cha cha cha to [some sort of deconstructed version of some of the component parts of - Rad] 'Love Shack'. (Dear Strictly Music People, while we're on the subject of the B-52s, I am still waiting for my jive to 'Rock Lobster'. Sincerely, Steven.) My first thought is that Pixie could've maybe used a touch more hairspray for this, because her 60s hairdo kind of collapses as soon as she starts whirling her hair around. It's a typically fun Trent routine, but her legs are a little sluggish, and there are some very obvious lifts that shouldn't be there, if we're still pretending that there are actually rules. (Admittedly at least one of the lifts is accidental, because it looks like it was designed for Pixie to keep one foot in contact with the floor at all times and she doesn't quite manage it.)

Tess points out that nobody has danced a cha cha cha since week five (where the only person who danced it was Thom, and he got sent home, so I'd be tempted to say people were avoiding it if Simon and Pixie weren't the only ones still in the competition who hadn't done one by that point). Craig thinks it was spectacular, but he felt that her legs were a little bit too straight. Darcey agrees that "there was an inconsistency with the leg action - sometimes it was too straight, sometimes it was too bent", but there was brilliant detail, and the attitude was perfect. Len decides to offer a warning to all couples at this point that he's been "a little bit lenient" this year on the subject of lifts, which is a bit like saying that My Immortal is a little bit loose with the rules of spelling and grammar. Anyway, he wants us to know that he's going to crack down on illegal lifts definitely maybe next week possibly but not this one wheeeeee, which is about the wooliest warning I've ever heard. Len adds that Pixie and Trent did three lifts tonight in a routine that shouldn't have contained any (I saw maybe two, but whatever), but he's "letting it go, because that's the sort of guy I am."


Trent tries to style it out about being a bad boy who breaks the rules (oh, TRENT <3) and Len sniffs back that he's "more than happy to give you a six instead of a nine" (seriously, just ask Kara and Artem). In an attempt to actually offer useful criticism, Len points out that Pixie's legs have been too flexed for many weeks and Trent has been trying to fix that, and now they've probably gone too far in the other direction, so they need to sort that out for next week. Tess asks Trent if he's going to be breaking the rules next week, and Trent points out that they've drawn American smooth and salsa for next week, so he can basically do the entire routine in mid-air if he wants to. Bruno says that Pixie grabs attention and puts "so much diddle in your dances" (god, I hope he meant "detail") - he likes to see people push the boundaries, and Pixie always does that. Though he agrees about the legs.

They vamp up to the Clauditorium, where Claudia asks how it went considering all the training struggles they had with that one particular move, and Pixie says that she loved it and it was fun. So that's that. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 9, Len 8 (looks like he decided to get picky after all) and Bruno 9 for a total of 35. Claudia points out that this is the first time since week seven that they've not had any 10s at all, and Pixie claims that she hadn't even noticed that. I know Pixie is kind of airy, but really? 

Mid-episode Claudia Comedy Bit: she turns up next to Tess wearing a crash helmet in preparation for the waltzathon, then exits when she realises she's too early. It's not the best example of the genre, I'll be honest. (Although it kind of justifies itself when she immediately reappears brandishing the toaster she's bought for Mark's wedding present, so I'll allow it.)

Next up are Mark and Karen, who will be doing a foxtrot this week. Last week's subpar salsa landed him in the bottom two and reminded him how easily this could all be taken away from him. This week Mark has mostly been training in an eye-searing pair of orange tracksuit bottoms, and apparently he has been tense in rehearsals. Whether these two things are related is not discussed. Karen decides that the best way to cheer Mark up is for him to call Michelle Keegan, so the two of them Facetime each other to discuss how awful it is working in different places, and apparently that was all it took to fix Mark right up. I guess he's not exactly an emotionally complicated person. Mark says that Michelle will be in the audience on Saturday (seriously, when is Michelle not in the audience?) and he's going to do this for her because it's a big romantic routine. [My favourite bit was Michelle sighing that she thought Mark would leave in week three and then he said that had cheered him up.  What a weird dynamic in that relationship - Rad]

And he's not kidding - Karen has layered the sucrose on with a trowel, because they're dancing to Nat King Cole's 'L-O-V-E' and there are giant letters spelling it out in the middle of the dancefloor. (Remember, "love" backwards is "evol". Just saying.) Mark's rictus grin danceface has returned for this performance, and again it feels like a lot of razzle-dazzle without a lot of substance beneath it. It could just be that I hate foxtrots and I'm not keen on Mark either, so this was probably never going to be a dance that appealed to me. Also there's a sub-Tom Chambers skipping-across-the-floor bit at the end which I think is best forgotten entirely, because it's not very good. [Fun fact!  I was trying to remember all the male winners last night and forgot one of them, then I saw this and remembered it was Tom Fucking Chambers and then got mad at my brain for reminding me and mad at Mark for being a lot like him - Rad]

They walk over to the judges, and naturally Mark launches into an earnest speech about how meaningful this experience has been to him, because he is physically incapable of not doing that at this point, and it's all our fault for not stopping him when we had the chance. Let's face it, if you're not part of the solution, you're just part of the problem. Darcey loved the shaping of Mark's frame, and she thinks he's perfected his transitions in and out of hold. Len points out that "L, O, V, E" gives you SEVUHHHN points in Scrabble, and just for that I'm going to ignore everything else Len says for this dance, because I am not endorsing that kind of behaviour. Bruno calls Mark a charmer and says that he's never been smoother, and that the timing in this dance was superb, ending with "well done, mate!" Craig says that Mark is "beginning to really look like a dancer" and he loved all the explosions out of hold (ooer), but Mark is still a bit square when he's in hold. 

Up in the Clauditorium, Mark blathers on about how he always knew he'd love the fast dances but never knew he'd end up falling in love with ballroom, and we've heard this story at least once a year from various different contestants so let's not waste any more time on it. Also, Karen is proud. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey "a smooth 9" (is that different from "A CRAZY 9!"? WE MUST BE TOLD!), Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35.

Jake and Janette are next, and Tess reminds us that Jake got a 5 from Craig last week. She announces that now it's the quarter-finals, Craig won't be needing that again, and proceeds to tear it up. Presumably this is what happened to Len's paddles 1-4 many years ago? Jake enjoyed last week's Greekentine tango and shrugs off the mid-routine crash in a very Jakesque way. He says that with not much time left in the competition, he just wants to enjoy whatever he has left. Jake brings Janette over to his house, ostensibly for a family meeting so that they can discuss what he needs to do to win over the judges, but mostly so Buster and Amber can be cute and appealing. Amber suggests making the charleston "more circusy", and she and Buster return dressed as clowns. Jake's wife (whose name I feel I should know, but I can't think of it - sorry, Jake's wife) says that they're all very proud of him as a family. [My favourite part was when Jake's daughter said he had to dance better if he wanted better scores.  Better head judge Amber than head judge Len - Rad]

They're dancing to 'Entrance Of The Gladiators', with Jake as the ringmaster and Janette as the sexy acrobat. I feel at this point you can divide a Strictly charleston into one of two categories - it's either an Ellis-Bextor (classy, dignified, playful) or a Hollins (GURNING, OH THE GURNING), and this definitely falls into the latter category. It's like there's a little elf in Jake's ear, operating his facial expressions on a pullstring. It's not my favourite variety of charleston, but despite the forced wackniess, there's some good swivel action and some appropriately physics/biology/general science-defying lifts from Janette as standard. It's definitely rough around the edges, however, as demonstrated by the bit where Jake almost knocks Janette over as he tries to get her into a lift, although I'm sure that was the fault of that woman from last week as well. Still, I would consider operation Comeback Charleston officially accomplished.

Tess says it was like a showdance, and you know how sometimes someone can deliver an incisive critique without even meaning to? That was Tess right then. Len says that Jake's just taken a giant step into the semi-finals with that dance. Bruno calls it "a riot of surreal slapstick" and says it was totally involving, with a performance level that was out of this world. Craig informs Tess that he's repaired his 5 paddle, and sort-of-backhands Jake that he's a "character dancer" but calls the routine "fantastic". Darcey finishes by saying it was "perfectly goofy" and admiring the imagination behind those lifts.

In the Clauditorium, Janette says that Jake has got "a million faces", so she thought the circus theme would really suit him. She also gives a shout-out to Ryan Francois for the choreography, and Ryan was responsible for this, so suddenly it all falls into place. Scores: Craig (holds up the repaired 5 at which point some entirely overcaffeinated woman in the audience shrieks in outrage, before he chucks it away) 9, Darcey 9, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 38. Jake claims to have a man-crush on Bruno, but doesn't really commit to the idea. I'd expect nothing less.

Our final solo couple of the night is Frankie and Kevin. Tess points out that they've topped the leaderboard four times, but it could all change tonight! I love that the jeopardy level for these two right now is "oh noes, they might only be second!" Last week Frankie had to contend with a jive on a surfboard, and this week she has to do the salsa with a very poorly Kevin. We approach woobie overload as Frankie explains that she and the rest of the Sats are off to the Cosmopolitan Ultimate Women Awards this week as they're nominated for...something (apparently it was the Ultimate #FabulousFriends Award In Assocation With Baileys, and no, I'm not really sure what that is either). Hilariously the rest of the Saturdays then interview that they're all together for the awards but they're missing Kevin, so I think he's officially the sixth Saturday at this point. I really wish he'd been in the video for 'Ego', that really would have been quite something. (This is in no way relating a desire to see Kevin in lycra or anything.)

They're dancing to 'Work (Freemasons Remix)' by Kelly Rowland (which is an instant 10 for song choice if you ask me), and Frankie is posing as a sexy metalworker at the beginning for some reason. Also, Kevin's trousers are a really weird fit this week because they're all sort of bunching at the top, which leads to a prominent bulge in the crotch area. Hey, I'm just here to report the facts. While I very much enjoy everything that Kevin brings to this series, I can't help feeling that his Latin choreography is his weak spot, because it tends to be flaily, loose and too fast, and this routine is a good example of that. Frankie can't quite keep up with it, and never quite manages to finish anything properly because she's too busy trying to get to the next bit. Also: there was a bit that they kept showing in the training footage in It Takes Two where Kevin lunges over Frankie with his right leg, she grabs it and does a backbend before pushing it back again and sending him back onto both feet. In all of that footage, it looked sloppy and weird, but I thought "okay, maybe I need to see it in context to make proper sense of it", but: no, it's just silly, and it makes no sense. Sorry. I tried, I really did. 

Frankie tucks her boobs back into her top as they make their way over to the judges, having ended in an upside-down lift, and Bruno tells her that the salsa had more ingredients than a recipe on MasterChef, which is something that he likes, but she needs to watch that her mounts and dismounts are smooth when doing this sort of thing. Craig says it was "a little bit haphazard", but Frankie is an incredible dancer with obvious passion. Darcey liked the krumping and twerking (and clearly nobody on this show understands what twerking actually is, so can we please have a moratorium on mentioning it until they're up to speed?). Len thinks Frankie will never dance badly, but this wasn't as clean as it could have been. Kevin says that he likes his salsa rough around the edges. Possibly with bits of someone else's half-eaten Doritos floating in it.

Over to the Clauditorium, where Claudia reminds us that Kevin has been ill this week and Frankie deadpans "is he? He hasn't mentioned it!" It's a shame that Frankie's sense of humour doesn't come out more in her dancing, because I really enjoyed her on It Takes Two during the week, and if she could project the same personality in her performances, I think she'd be in with a good shot at the overall win. Kevin says that Frankie's been awesome in keeping his spirits up with her energy in training. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 8, Bruno 9 for a total of 34. Frankie looks a little deflated, but admits that it's more or less what she expected to score for that dance. Kevin's crotch threatens to escape and smother us all (what a way to go though, eh?) while Claudia reads out the numbers, and then Kevin and Frankie run off to do a quick change for the waltzathon. While they're doing that, let's see the pre-waltzathon leaderboard:

1. Caroline & Pasha - 39
2. Jake & Janette - 38
3=. Simon & Kristina - 35
3=. Pixie & Trent - 35
3=. Mark & Karen - 35
6. Frankie & Kevin - 34

So Frankie and Kevin are in a precarious position, and if these were the only scores scheduled to be awarded this week, I'd think they might be in real danger of going home, but of course we still have the waltzathon, where I'd imagine they'll probably pick up a few marks. It also means that Caroline & Pasha basically just have to beat Jake & Janette in the waltzathon and they're guaranteed to be at the top of the leaderboard (possibly tying with one of the couples currently in joint-third, but they'd still be top).

To give Frankie and Kevin a bit more time to attire themselves, here's Len with the rules of the waltzathon, as illustrated by Anton and Iveta:
1) Six couples compete, all dancing at the same time, from the beginning to the end, just like a real competition
2) Everyone's starting position is pre-determined by random selection to ensure fair play
3) You must dance anti-clockwise around the floor
4) The judges will be looking for correct waltz technique
5) DEFINITELY NO LIFTS, PROBABLY, WE MEAN IT THIS TIME (MAYBE)

So unlike the swingathon, everybody dances for the duration of the whole thing, but they'll still ultimately get ranked, and the winner gets six points, the runner-up gets five, and so on. 

Back on the dance floor, Claudia asks Len if he has any final advice, and Len says the important thing is not to bash into any other couples, not that it stopped Ali & Brian from getting full marks when they did this with a Viennese waltz in series seven. Len encourages them to get around with as little trouble as possible. Darcey says she'll be looking for composure, travelling, gliding and a good frame. 

The couples return to the floor, and the men have all got the name of that couple stapled to the back of their jackets. I get that it's meant to be a cute nod to the numbers used in real competitions, but at this point in the series it does just look like we still can't tell these people apart without assistance. They're dancing to 'The Last Waltz' by Engelbert Humperdinck, and to be perfectly honest it's hard to give much of a performance assessment for any of this because there are so many people all milling around, so it's difficult to focus on whether any one couple is doing well or poorly. What I can say is that Pixie and Trent are playing an aggressive form of chicken across the floor, repeatedly coming as close as they can to crashing into other couples but changing course at the last second, Jake looks quite stuttery, and Mark doesn't seem to be moving much at all. As for the other three: who knows? 

Bruno thought they were all wonderful. Six points for everyone! He applauds them all for managing the space well and managing to make their performances feel unique. Darcey says that you don't often see them all do the same dance together, and this gave her a rare chance to see where the strengths and weaknesses were. Over to Len for the results: Jake and Janette are sixth, Mark and Karen are fifth, Caroline and Pasha are fourth, Simon and Kristina are third, Frankie and Kevin are second, leaving Pixie and Trent in first place. Pixie and Trent are ecstatic, Jake and Janette are phlegmatic - so much as you would expect, then.

Final leaderboard:

1. Caroline & Pasha - 39 + 3 = 42
2. Pixie & Trent - 35 + 6 = 41
3=. Jake & Janette - 38 + 1 = 39
3=. Simon & Kristina - 35 + 4 = 39
3=. Frankie & Kevin - 34 + 5 = 39
6. Mark & Karen - 35 + 2 = 37

So we've gone from a three-way tie for third place to... a three-way tie for third-place! Pixie and Frankie are better off post-waltzathon, as expected, Jake and Mark are worse-off, as expected, and Caroline and Simon are in exactly the same position they were before. O my expectations, how they have been confounded, etc.

Claudia allows the judges to declare the vote open this week, and then we recap this week's performances - but before we get to that, can I just sidebar in here that I wasn't really that impressed by anyone this week? Certainly as far as all of the individual dances were concerned, I thought there were significant problems with all of them. I guess we're getting our BLACKPOOL! hangover week slightly later than usual, except this year it's manifested itself as Around The World jetlag week instead. Anyway, onward: Simon and Kristina's stilted American smooth (maybe we should call that "American uneven" or something?), Caroline's tentative Argentine tango, Pixie's sloppy and over-lifty cha cha cha, Mark's shallow foxtrot, Jake's face-chewing charleston, and Frankie's frantic salsa.

And there we have it for the shortest episode of the series - tomorrow we'll have OneRepublic and another couple booted, and then from here onwards it's double-down dancing. Egad.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

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

- Lithuanian is a hard language to learn.
- Marian Keyes Strictly Gogglebox is now a thing.
- Marian Keyes also has a very tiny telly.
- Zoe's dream cast would include 'John Bishop, maybe Dawn French'.
- Craig can no longer do his Monday evening evaluation slot because he’s in pants in Dartford. This week his role was given over to Boyd Hilton, Nina Myskow and some other numpty. It went on for OVER TEN MINUTES. I lasted about 45 seconds.
- But then they gave us Iveta modelling her wardrobe to the soundtrack of ‘Supermodel’ by RuPaul and all was forgiven.
- Iveta has kept Thom's sailor suit for herself.  It is unknown whether or not she's washed it.
- She also has an outfit that makes her look like an awesome Apprentice contestant if she ever wants a career change.
- At the beginning of the show Sunetra thought she’d maybe make week five.
- Sunetra is on-message with the whole 'Brendan don't do no dirty filthy rumbas' spiel.
- Sunetra’s favourite dance was either her American smooth or her foxtrot. Or maybe her Viennese waltz.
- Sunetra thinks make-up, hair and wardrobe were especially nice to her.  We don't think Caroline could say the same.
- Sunetra wants “one of the girls” to win, but also maybe “one of the boys”. Well, that’s cleared that up.
- Dancing with your arms above your shoulders is hard. (Therefore presumably it must be DOUBLY HARD FOR THE MEN.)
- Simon and Mark can understand rhythm ALL BY THEMSELVES.  Which is presumably very hard for men too.
- The trick to a good jive is lifting your heel to your bottom.
- They are racing through the Superfan Quiz at a rate of knots. We're assuming audience feedback has not been overwhelmingly positive.
- The quickstep was invented as a cross between the foxtrot and Charleston to keep up with music getting faster.
- The quickstep is supposed to make you look like you're dancing on hot coals.
- The dancer who crashed into Jake during his Greekentine tango is a friend of Janette’s who feels terribly about the whole thing. And I’m sure everyone on the show screaming “IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT YOU CLUMSY HEIFER!” is really helping.
- Jake favours a pre-performance nap.
- Jake’s charleston is circus-themed, but he probably won’t be dressed as a clown.
- Lisa Riley calls Ian 'Jackanory' because he's always teling silly stories.
- Ian would’ve given Frankie’s jive a 10.
- Pasha is still struggling occasionally with English idioms.
- Caroline wants to do all her dances again if they get to the final.
- Aljaz and Karen completed 43 New Yorkers in the pro challenge, but incurred 4 penalties meaning that they scored 39 and are now top of the leaderboard.
- Karen is still trying far too hard to have a personality.
- It is technically not against the rules to block another couple in a waltzathon.
- Simon is actually asking Kristina for more difficult choreography.
- Waltathon, is - all together now - HARD FOR MEN.
- Mark owns an alarmingly orange and tight pair of tracksuit bottoms. He should consider burning them for the good of humanity.
- Iveta reads a mean autocue.
- Joanne thinks that Scott misses doing the show. I think Joanne is wrong.
- Iveta reports that TAM is somewhere very hot right now. Presumably taking all of his clothes off for Attitude.
- Joanne's favourite pro-dance was Bollywood, Iveta's was the dance starring Iveta and Iveta junior.
- Metal brushes, special oil and rubber are all Iveta and Joanne's favourite kinks ways of stopping shoes slipping.
- Joanne and Iveta duetting on ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ is the greatest thing you will ever hear.
- Joanne’s favourite dance of all is the quickstep. Iveta’s is “the dance of love”.
- Joanne has only been a professional dancer for two years. #presentedwithoutcomment
- Pixie has requested extra beads on her dress for this weekend.
- You can request colours in your outfits but you don't always get what you want.
- Janette is going to be a circus assistant / mime artist this week.  Let's hope it's a better combination than Greek / Argentine Tango.
- Kevin has been unwell this week. Could this be the triumphant return of Rentapro Brendan Cole?
- Pixie and Frankie have been discussing how they have the same relationship with their partners.
- Frankie isn’t great in lifts because she has no upper body strength.
- Zoe appears to have a sideline in Strictly fanfic going by her asking Frankie if she asks Kevin to give it to her 'harder harder harder'.
- Kevin changes choreography for Frankie but Trent won't change it for Pixie.
- Simon likes to prepare by holding his shoes and pointing them at the dancefloor.
- Pixie and Trent seemed to be putting way more energy into the waltzathon rehearsal than anyone else.
- Karen Hauer has also contracted Kevin’s lurgy. *eyebrow* If she gives it to Mark, just imagine how we’ll never hear the end of it at the weekend.
- Mark has learned quite a lot of things about Karen during their time together, but not her ideal Christmas present.
- Mr Pittard and Mr Frame are still the only good reason to watch that “teachers learn to dance” segment. HI MESSRS PITTARD AND FRAME. *fans self*
- Robin wants the teachers to grab their partner anywhere they can.  Surely only sexual harrassment cases can come from such instructions?
- Biggins was a big fan of Judy.
- Vernon Kay was a big fan of Scott’s lobster dance.
- Vernon Kay thinks Mark is the only dancer remaining who had no previous experience.
- Vernon Kay would consider doing the show and would want to be partnered with Natalie.
- Zoe had almost forgotten that Edwina Currie was ever on this show.
- Helen Lederer does a much better job of summing up the point of the Argentine tango than Len does.
- Vernon Kay doesn’t like the charleston because it’s “a bit farcical”.
- All of the remaining dancers have been in the top two spots on the leaderboard. (Thanks Vernon!) Furthermore, they’ve all topped the leaderboard at least once, apart from Mark.
- Biggins wants Pixie to win, Helen Lederer is backing “Flack…woman” and Vernon Kay wants Mark to win.

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Cut(ty) Sark-er

Week 10: Top 7 Results - 30 November 2014

Last night! Possibly the worst theme week in the history of theme weeks! Tonight! The most foregone conclusion in a while! Plus padding!

We open with an OIRISH pro dance to ‘Danny Boy’ featuring Tristan being fawned over by Joanne, Aliona and Iveta before Aljaž and Anton enter the scene and there’s a slow sort-of-American-Smooth vibe thing going on before ‘Lord of the Dance’ plays and some sub-Michael-Flatley bloke comes on and riverdances before a bunch of other riverdancers emerge and it’s all a bit 1992 and frankly, if we’re not riverdancing to this I don’t give too many fucks, TBH. (*adds Riverdance to the list of VETOED future dances*)

Tristan and Anton then accompany Tess and Claudia. Daly Dresswatch: Some bright pink thing which would be OK if it didn’t have a hideous piece of material cut right out of it above her left shoulder that makes it look like a jealous Vernon has been at her wardrobe with the scissors. Well, Tess and Claudia do seem close. What Winkleman’s wearing: essentially a black PE kit with heels.

The judges enter, as invested in the dance-on as ever. Darcey appears to have been dressed as the 1960s. All of it at once. Claudia and Tess preview special guests André Rieu and Alfie Boe in a smug-off to see who is the smuggest (I’m guessing Rieu).

Recap with extra Backstage bits! Featuring: Floor Manager Greg being commanding [OH MY - Steve], Jake thinking they’ll have a good night (LOLOOPS), Caroline wanting a 10. In case you were in any doubt about who is likely to go home tonight, Sunetra’s segment focuses on her criticisms and Craig giving her a 5.

First set of results! Safe are: Simon and Kristina, and Caroline and Pasha. Sunetra and Brendan look super-ready to be the first couple in the dance-off, but it’s actually Mark and Karen. Sunetra eyerolls a ‘seriously, we’re going to wait around while they manufacture some drama?’ face.

Mark says he’s exceeded his own expectations and he cannot believe he’s here and gets all teary. [Mark Wright, if you don't cut that shit out I SWEAR TO GOD. - Steve] Tess asks Darcey what he should do and she suggests finishing each step with precision and cleanness but the way he sold it on Saturday is what he needs to do.

In the Clauditorium, Caroline says it’s so nice to have had a good dance and to be safe, especially as she had a rough few weeks. Claudia reminds Simon he was in ‘dance-off hell’ for a while but he seems to have come through. He is grateful for all his support and is pleased his daughter is in. Kristina says this is the strongest cast in seven years on the show. It’s not clear if she means on the seven years she’s been around or that there were stronger casts in previous years, but let’s assume the former (although: stronger than Denise/Kimberley/Louis? Possibly but I’m not entirely sure. [I'm not even convinced it's stronger than last year's cast, to be honest. And last year's cast had its problems. - Steve]

And now!  Time for the smuggest guest performance of the series – Andre Rieu and an orchestra of women in big ballgowns playing strings (plus a couple of men in the background) with Alfie Boe who has now modelled himself on style icon that twat James from the Apprentice, performing ‘Volare’. It’s a dreadful racket and a dreadful song but at least we’ve got Brendan and Natalie whirling around doing some lovely ballroom in front of it. The highlight is trying to identify which of the female string players has the best bitchface. I think it might be the one in the red behind Boe.

Time for Len’s Lens now and a focus on Simon’s footwork and heel leads and yet more pretending that WALTZ IS A VERY HARD DANCE. We see more of Pixie’s magic skirt and the ballet moves they flung in as extras. WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE PURITY OF THE DAHNCE. Claudia says everyone is mad at Craig for Jake and Janette’s score – I’m more upset about Sunetra’s score TBH. Claudia says Craig claimed he bumped into someone but someone actually bumped into him. We get a recap of there being TOO MANY PROP DANCERS and Craig says Jake should have better ‘floorcraft’. Seems a bit mean to blame the celebrities when the training footage we see doesn’t feature them negotiating prop dancers, so they probably haven't had much practise with a floor full of miscellany. Claudia then says ‘social media’ was split on the notion. If she means Twitter, then my timeline was full of people complaining about it. Len says yeah, sometimes it can get in the way but sometimes it can enhance a performance, especially in a THEME week, because clearly THEMING is not enough. Bruno says the extra dancers worked for Caroline and Pasha because they framed her and she was the lead dancer. Claudia asks Craig when he'll give a ten. He says he was tempted for Caroline but there wasn't enough swivel at the start although he'd love to see it again. We then get Bruno trying to flirt with Len via the medium of tulips and Len smelling the fart. Len tells us about next week's 'waltzathon' which is basically the swingamajig but with six couples and a waltz and Len says they'll crash into each other and then the judges will rig the whole thing as usual and Bruno says this is what happens in proper dance competitions, which presumably this isn't (LOL).

More results! Safe are: Pixie and Trent, Frankie and Kevin (Sunetra’s ‘come on, stop stringing out the foregone conclusion’ face is awesome) and Jake and Janette, leaving Sunetra and Brendan to face an exit.  I mean dance-off.

Sunetra says it doesn’t come as a galloping surprise to her and she's sorry to put Brendan through it again. Brendan says not to worry as he's been in the dance-off loads of times.  Bruno says Sunetra needs to provide some resistance in her lower body as well as keeping the flow in her upper body.

In the Clauditorium, Claudia says Jake took a battering. Jake BIT. Claudia asks if Frankie is looking forward to the waltzathon. She says she hasn’t done a waltz since week one (which is when most people waltz anyway, SIMON) so it’ll be like learning two new dances. Pixie says it's scary because the competition is really open.

We get a trailer for ITT with Zoe ringing all the regular contributors: Craig, Karen Hardy and Ian.  Notable by their absence? Robin and his hanger-on.

Claudia and Tess ask Sunetra how she’s preparing. Sunetra’s all LOL like it matters, we’re off anyway – or rather says she was brought up not to be greedy and she’s come through two dance-offs and Brucies 'let's get ready to rumba' <3. Brendan says they may as well dance like they’re going and you never know. The head to the floor to cheers from the audience basically wishing them goodbye. Mark Wright is so pleased to be here and has improved and more of that journey bollocks I couldn’t care less about.

Sunetra and Brendan dance first.  It seems slicker than first time round because Sunetra clearly doesn’t give a fuck any more and is relaxing into it more – the ending is still as weird and awkward as it was, though. Mark’s dance is full of that awful smile/gurn thing he does and is still incredibly stilted in between sections which means it looks like a series of things rather than a full routine, even though I think it could be a fun routine were it more fluid. Sunetra was much better in that dance-off, albeit with a less complicated routine, not that this makes any jot of difference to what will happen.

Mark is saved by Craig, Darcey and Bruno and Len says he’d also have saved him. Sunetra thanks everyone who persuaded her, including her son Noah, because doing it has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. She thanks Brendan, the other celebrities and the pro dancers for holding her hand and supporting her and she thanks the people who voted for her. Brendan thanks her, the crew and everyone that watches the show and whether, like Ola, he has now danced his last, we can only speculate, but it did feel like a bit of a farewell speech.

They actually dance out in a Viennese Waltz style to 'Leaving on a Jet Plane'. Everyone gives Sunetra massive hugs and she mouths that she loves them so much. Caroline and Jake will miss her and Mark says it’s not nice being in the dance-off. Pixie reminds us there are only three weeks left.  Join Steve for the quarter-finals next week!