Saturday, 3 November 2007

Paso passion, but will there be fireworks?

Last week on Strictly, in case you had forgotten, there was CONTROVERSY! Kelly and Brendan did an illegal third lift! Penny and Gabby were both in the dance-off, despite other people being worse than them! Gabby went out despite being NOT THE WORST DANCER! OMG! The nation was stunned (though presumably not that stunned, because none of them voted for her, so they ought to have known really)! The PRESSURE is INTENSE! I feel a strange sense of deja vu - that's because Tess said exactly the same thing two weeks ago in her intro! Surprisingly, nobody says, "Will there be fireworks this week?" [Swizz. - Carrie] Titles!

Bruce and Tess make their usual entrance. For some reason this week Tess is wearing a grey sheet, belted at the waist. Her stylists must be on holiday again. [For the 283rd week running. - Carrie] The Farrah Fawcett 'do is an improvement on last week though. Bruce waffles some more about what a controversial show it was last week, and makes what I suppose you might call a "joke" about illegal lifts. After everyone whinging all week about how the audience didn't vote for the best dances, may I point out the irony of opening the phone lines now, at the beginning of the show, before the audience have seen a single dance? What are we supposed to be voting for, exactly? Gah. [Who's got the shiniest dress on? I dunno, that's what I normally do. - Steve]

The ten remaining couples take to the floor. They are: Matt and Flavia; Kate and Anton; Dom and Lilia; Kelly, who seems to be dressed like a Wild West hooker, and Brendan; Letitia and Darren; Gethin and Camilla; Alesha and Matthew; Kenny (oh dear God, he's wearing a sparkly kilt [because he's Scottish! Scottish people must vote for him! - Carrie] ) and Ola, who has outdone Lilia again with her teeny-tiny costume; John and Nicole; Penny and Ian. Bruce sings an "impromptu" song about 'Ten Dance Couples' to the tune of 'Ten Green Bottles'. What is going on?! Tonight the couples will dance either a foxtrot or a paso doble.

The producers must have wanted to get any controversy out of the way early on, because Kelly and Brendan are up first. Bruce tells us Brendan was planning another illegal lift this week - he was going to "lift Craig out of his chair and punch him on the nose". Kelly looks embarrassed. The VT recaps what happened last week, for anyone who has been on the moon. Craig thinks they should have been disqualified from the whole competition, which seems a bit extreme to me. Brendan promises "no more silly shenanigans" this week, but Kelly is feeling rebellious and wants to do the caping instead of the man, which has never been done before! They're dancing the paso doble to Bon Jovi's 'You Give Love a Bad Name', which is a bit of a weird choice, especially considering that, judging by the intro, the singers have no idea how to sing it. To be fair, it does improve once they get into the song [and that dreadful female singer stops her caterwauling - Carrie]. Kelly manages not to screw up the caping (which incidentally is making me chuckle every time I type it), but I'm not sure she has the upper body strength for it; it was a bit lacklustre. Brendan does a lot of prancing and sliding across the floor on his knees. It's not the most inspirational paso choreography ever, but at least they didn't do anything illegal. Head Judge Len explains that the paso doble is all about fire and aggression; the man is the bullfighter and the woman is his cape, which shows that Steve officially knows more about it than Bruce. Len wasn't impressed, saying they should have concentrated on the dancing rather than the caping. Kelly tries to get a retort in but Len shouts her down, saying, "It wasn't as good as you are as a dancer," somewhat of a backhanded compliment. [I don't think Kelly takes criticism well. She's starting to remind me of the "If! But!" woman from the benefit fraud adverts. - Steve] Bruno says Kelly wasn't in her stride and was "off the boil"; "The paso doble is like a feast - you have to attack it like you haven't eaten for a month." Whatever that means. Craig congratulates them for their bold choices of choreography, but thinks there wasn't enough storytelling and it was as though they were dancing "by yourselves, for yourselves". Arlene reckons Kelly's short skirt (which I found a rather inaccurate description - it was long at the back and non-existent at the front) exposed mistakes in her leg lines which would have been masked by a long skirt, and carps on about various technical things. Backstage, Brendan says Kelly did a fantastic job, the judges were harsh and she was brave to do the caping because no female celebrity has ever done it before. Kelly supposes she was being selfish and not really thinking about the dance when she insisted on caping, but she wanted to show that a girl could do it. [I was loving Kelly's cod-feminism - "Girls can be bullfighters too!" combined with "ZOMG PINK SPARKLEE CAPE YAYYYYYYY!" - Carrie.] The judges' scores are in: 7s across the board, with Arlene adding, "Could do better", to give them a total of 28, their lowest score so far. Kelly and Brendan are disappointed, but Kelly says, "You can't please everyone," which is presumably her way of saying they know the public will vote for them whatever they do.

John and Nicole are next with their foxtrot. Bruce tries to make a joke about John's daughters wanting him to stay in the competition until they get a chance to meet Matt Di Angelo, but can't pronounce his name. Dear me. Nicole says she is trying to make John more competitive, but David Ginola, Gary Lineker and John's son Jordan all say he's already competitive [which is what I was shouting at the telly - you don't get to be a professional sportsman of any kind, let alone a successful international player, without being insanely competitive - Carrie]. Also, Alan Hansen voted for him last week. John ought to be able to get away with a reasonable foxtrot, you'd have thought. Still, you'd have thought the singers would be able to cope with 'My Guy', but they're not making a very good job of it. John's arms look a bit clumsy at the beginning, and he never really looks in charge. I found the whole thing a bit wooden and unspectacular. Len tells us in the foxtrot you have to "glide across the floor with effortless ease", and says John has naturalness on the dancefloor. It's harder for the celebrity men to dance the foxtrot because they have to lead (although one might say that applies to every dance, no?) and says he did a very good job. Bruno says the foxtrot is "hard to sell" because you need a lot of control, but reckons John did a great job; he just needs to relax and be a bit more musical. Craig, accompanied by booing, says he must have been watching another dance, because John looked terrified at the beginning and it was laboured and sloppy and didn't have enough rise and fall. I must have been watching the same dance as Craig, which is also vaguely terrifying. Len says the footwork was good. Arlene tries to intervene with one of her incomprehensible puns, but has to wait for Len and Craig to stop arguing before she can tell us the problem was, "There was lots of fox but not enough trot" [I would've said "all trot and no fox" myself, but then I don't have Arlene's masterful command of the English language. - Steve]; nevertheless, it's hard to lead the woman round the floor and John managed to do it. Bruce lowers the tone - "Just don't get the trots" - and says, "We all thought it was wonderful," which clearly we didn't. Backstage, John is quite pleased: "I could have done it better but I could have done it worse." We're reminded again that it's tough for the celebrity to lead. It's time for the scores: 4 from Craig, which is a bit stingy; 6 from Arlene, 7 from Len and 7 from Bruno, for a total of 24.

Still to come - Anita Dobson visits Letitia in training, Kenny gets "cape fear", ha ha, and "something's brewing" in Alesha and Matthew's rehearsals.

Letitia and Darren are up next with their paso doble. Letitia's confidence seems to be increasing week on week, and she ought to be good at the paso because she can do Acting. As aforementioned, Anita Dobson [looking her age, God love her. I'm not convinced Letitia recognised her at first - Carrie] pops in to boost Letitia's confidence even more: "Wonderful. You look amazing. Everyone knows you can do it; you just have to trust in yourself that you can." They're dancing to 'Live and Let Die' - Paul McCartney and Wings, not Guns'n'Roses - of which I have to say I'm not usually a fan of people doing the paso to non-traditional music, but I can see how the pounding beat and the drama of the song might work with the story of the paso. Letitia does good Acting and skirt-swirling. They're not in hold very much, and she seems to know what she's doing. Unfortunately she catches her heel in her tights at one point. [She has a nice dress, though; the v-neck line suits her. - Carrie] Craig says it was "full of attitude, full of authority... had the full flavour of Spain and you really connected with one another". Arlene says it was "Spanish sherry and rioja all mixed up together", which she has probably tried, but Letitia needs to work on her neck and shoulder line. [I was wondering about this - do you think Letitia's shoulder line is hindered by her figure? I know Kelly is blessed in the chest department, but she is also Young, and I am just wondering if Letitia's posture is slumping forward because of the weight she's been carrying round her chest and her middle. Not in a bitchy way - just an observation. - Carrie] Len says it was beautiful. Bruno says it was "full of content" and that Letitia "acted like your life depended on it". Then he waves his arms about flamboyantly, trying to demonstrate what her shoulder line should be like. Bruce throws to Tess with the line, "Are the judges going to let them Live or Die?" If only... Backstage, Darren was pleased because the dance this week was faster and had more ambitious choreography, but Letitia coped well. Letitia chirps up, "I'm 40 in a week!" Is this the start of an "I'm so old, it's so difficult for me to compete with the youngsters!" sympathy vote ploy? Scores: 7 from Craig, 8s from everyone else, for a total of 31.

Bruce introduces Gethin and Camilla: "I said to Gethin, 'You're such a good presenter.' He said, 'It's just reading off an autocue into a camera. Any idiot could do it.' Thanks a lot!" It's funny because it's true. Gethin says last Saturday was weird and shows that NO-ONE IS SAFE and the middle of the leaderboard is a DANGEROUS place to be! He should be okay though, because Wales is supporting him. To prove it, the BBC have been to Cardiff to get voxpops from various people and sheep. [Srsly. - Carrie] Gethin reckons he has a chance with the foxtrot and is hoping to be near the top. I like Camilla's blue dress. Gethin has quite good arms, and is doing Acting. They're dancing to 'Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue'. It's a sophisticated performance, and Gethin has obviously been working on the rise and fall. He looks like he's enjoying himself, although that might just be the Acting, and takes a leaf out of Dom's book with a cheeky wink at the end. Arlene unsurprisingly compliments Gethin, saying he's "gorgeous to watch", his hold was good and it was dramatic. However, he needs to "free yourself up, give yourself to Camilla and the music". Oo-er. I think Steve would disagree. [He should give himself to me. Or Matt. - Steve] Len says he liked it very much - "I knew the Welsh could sing but I was getting doubtful about whether they can dance" - although his toes turn inwards. He thought their hesitation was "superb", though. Bruno says, "You're turning into the Prince of Wales!" which is not necessarily a compliment. [I don't think he meant Prince Charles specifically. Just a generic prince, coming from Wales. - Carrie] Mean Judge Craig says the transitions were clunky, but it's only Gethin's left foot which is pigeon-toed, and it was a "very respectable foxtrot". Backstage, Gethin is "amazed" and "delighted". Camilla thinks he just needed some encouragement from the jduges, and rather sweetly says she now feels like she's dancing with a partner rather than a celebrity. Awww. The scores are the same as Letitita's: 7 from Craig, 8s from everyone else; a total of 31, a personal best for Gethin and Camilla.

Kenny and Ola are next to dance. Gabby's in the audience, but hopefully there won't be any trouble. We're told by voiceover that "Last week Kenny was kicked into touch by the judges." Ha. Kenny was devastated that Gabby and James got voted off, and offered to give his place to them - bless. But that would be ILLEGAL. And also make a mockery of the public voting, and there's been enough of that sort of thing recently. Kenny ought to be good at the paso doble because he can channel his aggression. Ola thinks it might be his dance. Kenny says he's going to "do it for the public and for Gabby and James." Once more: awww. For some reason they've chosen to dance to 'Take Me Out' by Franz Ferdinand, which proves a real challenge for the singers. I'm not convinced about it, but I suppose the thumping beat is quite good for the stamping paso steps. [And Bruno is bouncing around in his chair, presumably with glee, and clapping along - drink! - Carrie] It's better than some of Kenny's previous dances, but not great. It's a good thing they made him wear pants under his kilt, as it lifts up when he spins round, and Ola ends the dance on the floor below him staring up (though with her eyes covered). [That was hilarious. I would've given them a 10 for that alone. - Steve] Bruno seems to be having a laughing fit, which doesn't bode well, but describes Kenny as "Braveheart taking on Spain... storming through", and says he did his best and it was "very entertaining". Mean Judge Craig says through a chorus of booing that there was "no finesse or style getting from one shape to another", which is what makes it "wooden", and he needs to "lose the boxing fists". Arlene focuses on the fact that Kenny had the requisite masculinity for the paso; he was "too aggressive" and lacked control, but at least he listened to the music. Len says, "I thought you were going to come out and do the Gay Gordons" - would he have been disqualified for that, though? [Depends if the judges were voting with their hearts or not. Also, my drunken flatmate who is reading this over my shoulder is very appreciative of the phrase "Gay Gordons". - Steve] Len didn't think he was going to like the kilt but he did. He thought it had drama and disagrees with Arlene: "You can't be too aggressive" in the paso. Backstage, Tess thinks Kenny is wonderful and romantic for wanting to give Gabby his place, even though it's against the rules. The judges' scores: 4 from Craig (boo!), 5 from Arlene (boo!), 6s from Len and Bruno (whoop!) for a total of 21, the lowest so far. [And good work from everyone except Craig - vaguely nice comments mean damnation with faint praise, and therefore failure to trigger the Great British Public's telephone dialling fingers in a show of defence and defiance. - Carrie] [Also at this point, we get the leaderboard thus far, showing Gethin and Letitia in joint first place, and I begin to wonder what's happening to the universe. - Steve]

Let's skip over Bruce's introduction and go straight to Alesha and Matthew's training. Matthew wants their foxtrot to be "romantic... like time stands still", but it's difficult for Alesha coz she iz down wit' da kidz innit and doesn't understand dances from "another era, a different generation". Fortunately her nans are on hand to rig up a tea dance in the studio, complete with costumes (Matthew gets half an army uniform) and teacakes. Alesha and Matthew are dancing to 'Heaven' by Bryan Adams, although the female vocalists are warbling it and seem to completely forget what the tune is supposed to be in places. [MY EARS! MY POOR EARS! - Carrie] The dancing is beautifully elegant and they have a good speed across the floor, and it is lovely and romantic. I'm expecting high praise from the judges, which duly arrives. Craig says it was "absolutely gorgeous... sensitive, honest, loving". Alesha has tears in the corner of her eyes. [Not in the corner of her eyes - she's actually crying, or at least biting back a crying fit. What's the matter, Alesha? We all love you! - Carrie] Arlene says, "You glimmer, glitter, shine and bring warmth". Len says her feet were "spot-on". Alesha says, "I need a cup of tea." Eh? Bruno thought it was "heavenly, full of grace and ease of movement" and says he was "enchanted". Backstage, Matthew admits to making a mistake, but Alesha says she loved it but is feeling a bit emotional. The judges give them 9s across the board, matching their best score so far of 36.

Bruce jokes about Dom grabbing Lilia's bum last week (and in just about every dance Lilia has choreographed this series), but it's not funny [shock! - Carrie] so I'll move on. Dom was disappointed with the judges' scores last week because their comments were quite positive. This week he needs to be serious, not cheeky, for the paso. Lilia brings in a Spanish Dance Expert to help him with the bullfighting movements, who yells things like, "Dominate her!" Dom and Lilia had a bit of a "dancers' tiff" this week, but it's all fine now. They're dancing to traditional paso doble music but it's almost a bit too jolly and, dare I say it, cheeky, with not enough drama and passion. [It made it all sound too comical, I thought. - Steve] Dom's arm movements are quite good though, so the lessons obviously paid off. Over to the judges. Arlene says their dance had "more paso content than anything else tonight... Sometimes you charge like a raging bull" - but I thought he was supposed to be the bullfighter? Hmmm - "and you don't listen to the music." Len says it's a hard job for the celebrities to learn a new dance every week. Boo frickin' hoo. He says the paso doble isn't the right character for Dom, but he did come out here in a different character. Bruno says the "Spanish content was full-on" but Dom needs to listen to the music and "watch your periscope hand", which he demonstrates. Craig reckons it had "crowd-pleasing moments" but was "technically boxy". Bruce gives Dom a tip on how to do the steps, which is not especially helpful after they've finished, is it? Backstage, Lilia is happy with the perfomance, saying it is Dom's most musical yet. Dom says he's getting used to the judges slating him. Before going to the scores, Tess reminds them that "You were hoping for 30 this week..." and Dom pipes up, "Well, that ain't gonna happen." He's right. Craig gives them 5, which is followed 7s from Arlene and Len and a 6 from Bruno for a total of 25.

Bruce jokes that people are saying that Kate's getting better; he thinks Anton's just getting worse. Cut to Anton putting on his monst crestfallen face. It's not exactly complimentary to Kate either! As we know, Kate and Anton were at the bottom of the leaderboard last week. Kate feels like she has "stolen Gabby's dream". GMTV have christened last week's events "Kategate", which is just lazy journalism, frankly. [Indeed. Couldn't they at least have gone with "Waterkate"? - Steve] Anton says he's known for the foxtrot, "Monsieur Du Foxtrot". He has been hard on Kate this week because he believes she can dance well. Kate says she hopes the judges can see that she's improving. I'm a big fan of her purple dress. They're dancing to 'I Could Write a Book', and I'm hoping Anton chose it to mess with Kate's horrible husband's head, with the closing lyrics, "Then the world discovers as my book ends/How to make two lovers of friends". Hee! Anyway, about the dancing - Kate doesn't look like she's being dragged round the floor, so it's definitely an improvement. I'd even go so far as to say she looks elegant, and may yet justify her place in the competition. Len says it's her best dance so far. Bruno goes a bit OTT for a change: "It's a miracle! There's a light at the end of the tunnel!" Craig says, "It's not good enough" - boo! - "but there's a vast improvement", and Kate needs to sort out the "shuffling between steps". Arlene says, "The press wrote an encyclopaedia about you this week" and says she never expected to see her dance that well. Kate seems bemused backstage, asking, "What's going on?" She says she knows she doesn't deserve to be there, but she gets annoyed when people say that about Anton. I don't think anyone's actually saying Anton doesn't deserve to be there, dear. It's all you. The scores are in: 5 from Craig (boo!), 7 from Arlene, with an "A for effort", and 7s from Len and Bruno for a total of 26 which they seem unduly happy about. Still, that is Kate and Anton's best score so far and they're off the bottom of the leaderboard, which may mean nobody will bother voting for them. [And again, damnation with faint praise from the judges except Craig. - Carrie] [Also, note how the very first shot after Kate finished dancing was Gabby in the audience, and Gabby had the good sense to look enraptured. And I voted for Kate this week, by the way. I genuinely thought she did well. - Steve]

The penultimate dance of the night is Matt and Flavia with their "very modern paso doble". The Matt-inee idol was top of the leaderboard last week, but Matt was surprised by all the 9s and is a bit worried that "now people will think I can dance". I'm a bit worried when I see him stalking around the rehearsal studio like a raptor. Flavia's concerned that Matt is too young to be manly enough for the paso. Matt thinks he needs to "turn up the flirtometer". I'm not sure that's what Flavia meant. Matt is dressed in top-to-toe black, [he looks like a gay bank robber, hee! - Steve] but the burglar costume choice becomes clear when we find that they're dancing to 'Smooth Criminal' - possibly the Alien Ant Farm version. Matt's acting face is not very intense, but the passion of the paso does come through. Craig says it wasn't a traditional paso "but I support creative choreography" and says Matt is "the best male celebrity hands man". Oo-er. He thinks Matt "lost it through the spins and skipping" and didn't think they told the story effectively. Bruce interjects, "Unless the story was skipping." When was the last time you saw skipping in a bullfight, Bruce? [Christopher Parker, I believe. - Steve] Arlene says he has gone from Matt-inee idol to Matt-ador, which wasn't very creative of her because Matt said the same thing in the VT, and says it was "powerful and passionate". Len says it was a "great performance", but not a paso doble in his eyes, the old fart. [He's a TRADITIONALIST! He likes THE HISTORY CHANNEL! - Carrie] However, all the pasos tonight have been weak, and this was one of the best. Burno says it was "strong, sharp... a good modern take" on the paso, and concludes, "Bullseye!" Backstage, Matt says his brothers are in the audience this week. Whoop. Back to the judges for their scores: 7 from Craig, 8 from the rest, for a total of 31.

Finally tonight, Penny and Ian are dancing the foxtrot. Bruce comments that to avoid being in the bottom two, Penny has "Rod on speed-dial backstage". Tumbleweed rolls across the studio floor. Quick, get the rehearsal footage on. Penny says she has never done anything as rewarding as Strictly, except having a baby, and her family and friends are all proud of her, and... oh, I'm welling up. Ian thinks the foxtrot will be a good dance for Penny because it has elegance and grace. Someone has dressed up Penny's toddler in a sandwich board saying "Good luck Muma". He's her biggest fan. Probably a bit young to be voting though, which might have been her problem last week. [She's got a million stepchildren. Can't they vote? Lazy good-for-nothing wastrels. - Carrie] Penny and Ian are dancing to Rodgers & Hart's standard 'This Must Be Love'. Penny has her acting face on at the start, staring into Ian's eyes, but just below the surface she looks terrified. It's a good dance - plenty of rise and fall, Penny is elegant as expected. Bruno overflows with praise: "What flair! What class! You swing and sway like the best. You're back with a bang!" Craig says Penny is "giving Alesha a run for her money... It was a triumph. I adored the choreography." Arlene says, "It's raining Penny's from heaven", which (1) doesn't work grammatically in that sentence, and (2) you're too late, Arlene, I used that in my results show recap last week. She also says Penny needs to stretch her knees. Len compares Penny to champagne - "sparkling, effervescent and full of joy". Backstage, Tess says, "Penny's from heaven - I love that." Thank you, Tess, I'll be here all series. Penny says she's doing it for Gabby. Not for herself then, ohhhh nooooo. [Gabby: "I'd rather do it for myself if it's all the same to you." - Steve] Arlene gives them an 8, everyone else gives them 9s, for a total of 35; their top score so far.

It's all over for tonight - time for a reminder. Alesha and Matthew are back at the top with 36, while Kenny and Ola are languishing at the bottom of the leaderboard. I'm off to vote for Kenny and Ola just to annoy the judges. Join Steve for the results tomorrow, when the professionals will be demonstrating a Viennese waltz and hopefully doing interpretative dancing to McFly.

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