Saturday, 24 November 2007


It's WEEK 8! There are seven couples left in. Last week, "some raised the bar" (Matt and Flavia) "while others dropped it" (Kenny). Kate went out. Anton was angry. Grrr! [Phwoar. - Carrie] EVERYONE in being DESPERATE for a PLACE in the FINAL SHOCKER! Titles! [*claps in time* - Carrie]

Here come your hosts, Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly. Tess's costumiers have finally realised that a plunging neckline is quite flattering on large breasts, rather than just covering them up with fabric. In fact, Tess may have the nicest dress in the ballroom this week. What's going on? Bruce says a Strictly insider told him that 90% of the phone votes last week were for Anton du Beke. Tess: "Who told you that?" Bruce: "Anton du Beke." Ha!

Time to welcome the remaining couples back to the dancefloor. They are: Matt and Flavia; Kelly and Brendan; Letitia and Darren; Gethin and Camilla; Alesha and Matthew; Kenny and Ola; John and Nicole. I am desperately hoping that this is the week when Kenny's luck will run out. The standard now is too high for him still to be there. Tess informs us that this week the couples will all have to dance either... a Latin or a ballroom dance. I think we know that by now, Tess. Tess reminds us of the phone details, so you can vote for your favourite before you see them dance. I don't have much that's nice to say about The X Factor in general, but at least they don't open their lines until you've seen all the performances.

Gethin and Camilla are first out. Last week the judges found their rumba cold. Gethin was disappointed, because he thought he had connected with Camilla on the dancefloor. Apparently that entitles him to treat her like a horse when rehearsing for the quickstep: "And trot on!" Hee. The WHOLE OF WALES has been voting for Gethin, so they went off to Cardiff just to make sure. No sheep were canvassed in the making of this VT. They visit the Millennium Centre - watch out for the Barrowman, Gethin, I think he hangs out around there. Gethin's dad is there to embarrass him. Hee.

Anyway, let's get on with the dancing. Gethin and Camilla are quickstepping to Cole Porter's 'You're The Top'. Camilla is the ruler of all things PINK AND SPARKLEEEE this week, while Gethin has his acting face on. They cover the floor well, and Gethin is quite light on his feet. I'm not that impressed by Camilla's choreography though; it's a bit dull. Expect good marks from the judges though.

Bruce welcomes the "wonderful singers" [who? what? where? - Carrie] and points out that it's Bruno's birthday tomorrow. 21 again? Len tells Gethin he did a "very, very good job" and his "footwork was right on the money", but it lacked personality and needed more gaiety, fun and spontaneity. Bruno says there was "nothing wrong but you failed to ignite", and since it is WEEK 8, "you have to raise the bar". Boo! Craig disagrees: "The performance level was fantastic", although he adds a few niggly criticisms about Gethin's right foot being pigeon-toed when he's going backwards and that sort of thing. Gethin is Arlene's favourite, methinks. "Flight officer Gethin is back" with "a spring in your step", but "the occasional trolley dolley". Could someone please explain to me what she's on about? [Nup, sorry. - Carrie] [I think it maybe involves some kind of slashfic that she's writing? - Steve] Backstage, the other contestants reckon it was Gethin's best dance yet. Gethin says he "didn't have to force the smile", and Camilla whines that, "Starting the show with a quickstep isn't easy." Blah, blah. The judges' scores: 8s from Craig and Bruno, 9s from Arlene and Len, for a not-at-all-shabby total of 34.

Next up, John and Nicole. The Racialist British Public have been desperately trying to vote John out for weeks now and the judges keep saving him (or as John puts it, in the requisite football metaphor, he has "escaped relegation" three times). Ola thinks the samba will suit his (club) dancing style, and he'll be able to show off his hip action. They're dancing to Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder. Is it just me, or do all John's Latin costumes look the same? The dance isn't bad, but sometimes John seems to be looking at Nicole for guidance [all the bloody time. It's very annoying. They complained about Kate relying on Anton too much, and just because John can stand up, they don't bother commenting on the fact that he's got no idea what he's doing. - Carrie], and his footwork is rushed in places. Mainly it looks as though John is concentrating too much on his footwork to do anything much with his arms. They have managed to evoke the party atmosphere of the samba though.

Bruce checks to make sure John has not literally danced his butt off. Dirty old man. The judges, who obviously were expecting a lot from John and his Natural Sense of Rhythm in the samba, are uniformly disappointed. Bruno says that "Instead of being a riot, it was a murmur", and that it looked like they had rehearsed in the corridor! Craig says they did have "an enormous amount of energy", but John looks down at the floor too much and needs to look up. Also, there was "not enough bounce", but his "timing was fantastic". Racialist. Arlene complains that John was "having a love affair with the floor", not with Nicole, although "everything from the waist down works brilliantly." Steady on! [Heh. I laughed. - Carrie] [Interestingly, I was listening to Philip Jackson on the interactive commentary, and he and Anton said precisely the opposite: that from the waist up John was fine, but his footwork was terrible. I suppose the judging really is very subjective. - Steve] Len says he was disappointed after the great salsa that he gave John and Nicole a 10 for. I think you'll find, Head Judge Len, that's because you grossly overrated the salsa. Anyway. He accuses John of "not putting in the work to fine-tune" the dance, and isn't sure John is up to learning two dances next week. Backstage, John vehemently denies that he isn't training hard enough and couldn't learn two dances, pointing out that they have been learning group dances in addition to their own. [This was a bit disingenous of him. He said that he is training hard when he manages to train, but he has been very busy this week. Ergo, by default, Head Judge Len is right - John isn't putting the time in. - Carrie] The scores are in: 6 from Arlene (a bit mean, I feel), 7s from everyone else, for a total of 27. Tess says, "It's WEEK 8 and the scores are going higher", although I'm not sure how she can possibly know that after two dances.

Still to come! Letitia is shaken (aww), Kelly is rattled, and the good times roll for Kenny. Do you see what they did there? [Not until you just pointed it out, actually. Sometimes I'm even slower than Brucie. - Steve]

Letitia and Darren are next to take to the floor, and you'd think Letitia would have more confidence after her best dance yet last week. But no, she's still piling the pressure on herself: "It can't just be good, it has to be great." Darren thinks they're "back in the running". They will be Viennese waltzing to Billy Joel's 'She's Always A Woman To Me', Letitia in a rather ugly brown dress. The intro is quite long - and just as well, because the rest of the Viennese waltz is pretty boring. Spin this way, spin that way, spin on the spot. They're quite a sweet couple though.

Prompted by Bruce, Letitia admits she had never imagined she could dance like that. Craig heaps on the praise: "Fantastic. I loved the intro. There was a great amount of rotation, great hand movements"... but says that when Letita was going backwards, her feet weren't closing. Arlene says, "I don't want to see one more VT of you worrying" - I second that - "because you're a beautiful woman and a beautiful dancer. Your arms have improved out of all proportion." Len says Letitia has mastered her top but has "problems down below". I thought this was supposed to be good, clean family entertainment? He proceeds to pick holes in her footwork - "no heel leads", "a mess-up on the change step", but concedes that she did the fleckle, which must be my favourite dance-step name ever. Bruce wonders if it will be "last orders for the Queen Vic landlady?" Which is a pretend-occupation-related pun, so - drink!

Backstage, Tess asks if Letitia is the dark horse of the competition, and Darren thinks she is, pointing out that in the VT we see her frustration about trying to learn the steps, but he has seen a lot of improvement in rehearsals. Awww. Back to the judges for their scores: 8 from Craig, 8 from Arlene, 7 from Len and 9 from Bruno, which he prefaces with a little justification: "Most improved dancer, I liked it very much!" [Hee. Sometimes Bruno is adorable. - Carrie] Total: 32.

Next up, Kelly and Brendan. It was Kelly's birthday yesterday. [You'd think she'd have dragged hers out for a fortnight. It seems a little unfair that only Letitia is allowed to do that. - Steve] Bruce makes a gag about Brendan wrapping himself up as a birthday parcel and Kelly refusing to sign for it. At least it wasn't a "birthday suit" joke. Kelly and Brendan are under pressure after their great jive last week, and they're getting up at 6 o'clock to rehearse. Brendan is pushing her hard and there's a bit of tension in rehearsals, so he throws her a surprise birthday party. These are the people who have been whinging about not having enough time to rehearse. Kelly's nan is there, but isn't as great as Alesha's nans. Kelly's mum Sandra wants her to win. Shocker! Kelly and Brendan will be samba-ing to Staying Alive. It's difficult to do a good cover of a Bee Gees song, and the band do a surprisingly good job. Their routine is okay, but nothing spectacular. I'd give Brendan extra marks for his waistcoat.

Arlene says her "high expectations have fallen flat... You should have stormed through the ballroom but you didn't." She thinks Brendan was sharp but Kelly wasn't, but Len disagrees - he doesn't even think Brendan did very well, criticising his choreography as "not a good enough standard of routine for a girl of her standard". He also says Kelly should "listen to Brendan and get on with it". And also get back in the kitchen and make him some pie. Probably. [That comment was beyond the pale, I thought. Especially since this week Kelly was actually making me like her by taking the judges' criticism with what I thought was good grace. - Steve] Bruno makes some kind of remark about their dance being like "Judi Dench reading the Yellow Pages". Brendan gets all mouthy about how they've only had eight hours to rehearse the samba because of the group dance. Wait a second, isn't everyone doing the group dance? If a celebrity signs up for Strictly, shouldn't they make sure they can fit it into their busy schedule? Brendan says the judges should "stop expecting Kelly to be the world's best dancer, because she's not", which is a fairer comment. Surely they should be judging the dance itself, rather than how well they think the celebrity in question could potentially have done it? [Yeah, but then Brendan treads on his point by saying that they did the best they could with the time they had available, which: tough shit. If you're not putting the time in, then don't expect to improve or garner good marks. - Carrie] Bruce remembers that Craig hasn't had a say, but he doesn't have much to add at this point, just that it was "technically not brilliant". Bruce tells Kelly and Brendan they're his favourites. Kelly says, "Does that mean we're going home?" LULZ. Backstage, Brendan is angry! Grr! He is fed up of all the negativity. And probably bored of not causing any controversy for a few weeks. The judges' scores aren't that bad, anyway: 8 from Bruno, 7s from everyone else, for a total of 29.

Bruce introduces Kenny (cue much cheering - clearly the audience are not dance-lovers) and Ola with comments about how he can't understand anything Kenny says when he gets excited. Racialist! Kenny hopes he can turn the corner this week. Ola thinks the American smooth will be a good dance for Kenny because he can do lifts that no one else can. I suspect not steps, however. "A bit more graceful!" Ola instructs him in rehearsals, possibly fighting a losing battle. Kenny says he wants to "give the judges something to cheer about". They're dancing to 'How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)', and I can't help but feel something a bit more swing would have been a better choice. In places they look awkward because Ola seems to be ready to move but is waiting for Kenny to lead her. Kenny is singing along, bless. [Ola is too, at odd points, and I think that this is deliberate because Kenny still can't hear the beat, so he's working out when to step according to what words are being sung. Watch it again - you'll see them both mouthing, "Stop!" at the "Stop! and thank you baby" bit. But of course he is dyslexic OMGZ!?1 so that's why he can't hear music. - Carrie] They do two lifts that cover about five different positions, including a one-handed overhead drape. (I'm not sure if that's the correct terminology, but it sounds good.) Okay, yes, Kenny has improved this week but I'm afraid he's never going to reach the standard of the other dancers. Let's see what the judges have to say.

Bruno says it was a "monumental effort", and for a moment I'm not sure if he's damning them with faint praise. He calls Kenny a "tower of strength... You've worked hard and it shows." Craig says it was "a lot more like it", although Kenny "could have smiled through the lifts - it's supposed to look effortless", and Kenny's knees were too bent. Arlene, in a bit of a non-sequitur, says Kenny has "caused more controversy than Heather Mills McCartney's interview with Fiona Phillips. Everyone's talking about you - but I'm talking about the improvement. You've taken a giant step." [Before I heard Arlene say "interview", I was really hoping she was referring to some kind of controversy involving Heather Mills and Fiona Phillips both being really bad dancers. Booo. - Steve] Head Judge Len wasn't struck with the lifts - "They weren't in keeping with the dance", which is supposed to be floaty and gliding, and "This isn't Strictly Come Weightlifting" - but he thought the actual dancing was much better. [He's right about the lifts. They're spectacular, but a bit...not smooth. Nor, indeed, American. - Carrie] [But I would totally watch Strictly Come Weightlifting, just for the record. - Steve] Backstage, Tess tells us that even the professionals can't do a one-armed overhead lift. Ha, that's nothing. They should try doing it On Ice, like another rugby player I could mention. The scores are in: a very realistic 6 from Craig (boo from the audience, hooray from me), an 8 from Arlene "for sheer improvement" - srsly, don't get me started [Fuck off, Arlene! - Carrie] - and 8s from Len and Bruno, for a total of 30. Sorry? What. The. Fuck? This isn't playschool, for crying out loud.

Matt and Flavia are doing the salsa this week, which Flavia says is "the most sexy dance". Isn't that the rumba? I'm confused. Matt was on form last week, after scraping through the dance-off the week before. He says it is "wide open, and I'm not going down without a fight." I think he was talking about the competition, although it might have been some kind of secret message to Gethin. [Heh! Filth! - Carrie] Flavia's having trouble getting Matt to move his hips, but once she gets him shimmying, she reckons he looks hot. Matt's trying to let himself go this week. Flavia's dress is rather demure, but they are dancing to decent samba music with a great Latin beat. Flavia's choreography has been good this series and this is another example, packed with content and risky moves like Matt kicking his leg over Flavia's head and holding her just off the floor with one hand. Don't drop her! As we learned on It Takes Two, it could break her neck. It's okay, though, it doesn't.

Bruce goes to Arlene first to make sure she's feeling alright. She certainly is - "The Ramps returns! It was hot, hot, hot! You sizzled like sausages on a barbecue!" Len simply states that it was "absolutely fantastic". Bruno enthuses, "You're bringing sexy back! You're the Spice Boy of the competition!" I think he might be confused. Bruce observes that Craig is "smiling and looks satisfied", and Craig is all like, "OMG, I am tOtAlLy LUVin ur wOrK!!!!111!!!1! It was brilliant!" Backstage, Tess calls Matt a "sexy beast". The scores are good: 9s from Craig and Len (although, again, what could they have done better to deserve 10s?) and 10s from Arlene and Bruno, for a total of 38.

The final couple is Alesha and Matthew. Last week, Alesha was "the belle of the ball" and they got two 10s. Alesha had "a brilliant time", but now she feels the pressure to be great every time she and Matthew are "stepping out". Hee! In rehearsals, Matthew says she has to "feel the cha-cha-cha flowing through your veins". Alesha wants to prove that she can do Latin as well as ballroom, because she gets too excited and her technique suffers. Control is the "cha-cha-challenge". Alesha is fabulous. She's wearing the scantiest dress this week as well. They're dancing to Beyonce's 'Crazy In Love', which is a bit of an odd choice because you can't really feel the cha-cha-cha beat, but it's a great routine, even though putting the sort-of-splits in at the end just emphasises that Alesha doesn't have the flexibility to actually do the splits (unlike Gabby, who is dead out of the competition).

Head Judge Len says it was Alesha's best dance. Bruno camps it up - "My pulse is racing! My heart is beating! It's DIVA TIME!" Craig describes it as "totally amazing. You are FAB-YU-LUSS." Arlene comes up with the rather unflattering metaphor, "This is a two-horse competition and you're one of them." Bruce reckons there might be more 10s on the cards. Do ya think? There's not much time for backstage banter. The scores are in: 9 from Craig, 10s from all the other judges (and a punch into the air from Bruno - drink!), for a nearly perfect total of 39, the highest score of the series so far. [And for what it's worth, I think that score was too high. I love Alesha to bits, obviously, and it was a brilliant routine to watch, but I'm not sure it had the technical perfection to deserve three 10s. And now I'm worried that this will trigger the as-yet-unrealised Alesha backlash. Sigh. - Steve]

The show is drawing to a close, but there's just time for a final look at the leaderboard. Obviously Alesha and Matthew are at the top, closely followed by Matt and Flavia, while John and Nicole are languishing at the bottom with 27, along with Kelly and Brendan, who have 29. Kenny and Ola have finished triumphantly third from bottom. There's a bit of a tradition of bad dancers getting voted off the week they give their best performance though, so anything could happen in the results show tomorrow.

Also in the results show, the couples will be performing a group Charleston, the Sugababes will be performing, and the professionals will be treating us to a Dirty Dancing medley. Yayz! Steve will be here to guide you through the mayhem of the WEEK 8 results!

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