Yes, folks, it's SEMI-FINAL WEEK! Last week: Gethin "roared on", whatever that means; Matt fell apart; Alesha fell from grace (ie was in the dance-off because everyone sympathy-voted Matt and Flavia to victory). I'm still a bit excitedly distracted by the preceding trailer for the Doctor Who Christmas special. Don't worry, I'll do my best to concentrate. Titles!
Bruce and Tess make their entrance, the latter dressed as a futuristic Cleopatra, or possibly an special guest star on Battlestar Galactica. The '70s version. Only from the front though; the back of her dress is quite nice. [Which makes me wonder why they can get half of it right, but not the whole thing. It's like when Torchwood dropped out the occasional brilliant episode and you wondered what was stopping them from doing that every week. - Steve] Bruce threatens to sing next week. Why must the Beeb inflict this on us? We are encouraged many times to vote for our "favourite couple". Here's an idea: vote for the best dancer. Mind you, if the nation refuses to vote for the best singer on The X Factor, what hope is there? Bruce says that "Three's a crowd ... one couple has to go", which makes sense in a monogamous relationship, but not really on a show that normally has three couples in the final.
Alesha and Matthew are first up. Expect to hear a lot about how she is the last girl celebrity in the competition. Alesha and Matthew have had more 10s than any couple in Strictly history; though whether that's due merely to brilliant dancing or ever-lowering
Bruce introduces the judges, saying that as there's a gender bias on the panel, he wants to check that there's no bullying or harassment going on; "Len, Bruno, Craig - you're not being bullied by Arlene, are you?" Clearly not, because if Arlene was in charge of Len and Bruno she'd get their bloody marking into line. Anyway, back to business. Bruno tells Alesha, "You might be the last girl standing... but you look like the first lady of dancing." Craig thought it was "fantastic, full of difficult syncopated steps; you made it look easy". Arlene says that Alesha is "about to turn this semi-final into a killer competition", (Alliteration! Drink! - Carrie) and throws in the obligatory play on words: "Your nippy footwork turned the nip in the air hot." Whatever. Len echoes Craig's comment that Alesha "made a hard dance look easy". Backstage, Alesha tells Tess, "I don't think my emotions can handle it!" When Tess asks if she wants to beat the boys to the final (like, duh), Alesha responds, "Well, they are good-looking boys..." Surely she's not suggesting that people are voting for something other than dancing ability? The scores are in: 9s from Craig and Arlene, 10s from Len and Bruno as usual, for a total of 38, which they're obviously pleased with.
Matt "20 years old is the new rugby player" Di Angelo and Flavia are up next with their Argentine tango. Flavia ought to have come up with something good for this dance. We're reminded of how both Matt's dances went so terribly wrong last week and how "mortifying it was, and how Matt didn't want to go out and do the samba after his foxtrot had gone so wrong. "I had my bags packed", says Matt, and the fact that people bothered to vote him in makes him want to do better this week. I should think so too. Don't expect to be saved a second time. This week Matt has been filming his final scenes for EastEnders; cue rehearsals in Albert Square in front of the rest of the cast, in order to try and boost Matt's confidence. They're dancing to traditional tango music (which George bloody Lamb was criticising on It Takes Two on Friday, and frankly he can piss off). Although the Argentine tango is clearly technically difficult, it's not very exciting to watch, and it's clearly the woman who has the most to do. Matt's footwork isn't perfect, but at least he's remembered the routine. I like the ending, where Flavia is swiftly flipped upside-down with her head centimetres from the floor. It's cute that she trusts him to do moves like that. I'd be worried he might drop me. [Or give up halfway through and wander off to sit on the steps. - Steve]
Len tries to explain the story of the Argentine tango, which goes something like this: imagine a gaucho, hot and sweaty in the docks of Buenos Aires, looking for a lady of the night; he sees a girl he fancies and sidles over... At this point he sidles towards Bruno, who is justifiably a bit scared, and I lose the track of the story. I think we get the point though. Len says the competition is "about risk and reward", and Matt "risked everything" coming back out on the floor this week. No more than he would have risked by not dancing, I'd have thought. However, he says that Matt's main concern was obviously to get through the routine without forgetting his steps, and as a result it "lacked a tad of passion and drama". Bruno says, in one of my favourite metaphors of the series, "After the blank you fired last week, coming back and doing it fully loaded takes a lot of courage". Craig was impressed that it was "full of content, lots of different steps", and thinks they "captured the essence of the dance", but he didn't like some of Matt's foot passes and lunges. Arlene thinks that Matt and Flavia have the requisite "intimacy and intensity" for the Argentine tango, but tells Matt - in a nurturing way, some might say - that he's a "really good dancer" and has to believe in himself. Some might say the semi-final is a bit late for nurturing. Backstage, Matt says he was concentrating and the "nerves weren't really there". They score an 8 from Craig and 9s from everyone else, for a respectable total of 35.
Still to come - is Gethin "cape-able" of taking control? Geddit? Ha ha ha. And will Alesha and Matthew top Matt and Flavia's Argentine tango? Well, if anyone can...
Bruce says that last week Gethin burned a hole in his trouser leg, but he said, "It's alright, it's not big enough for Arlene to get her hand through." Filth! This is a family show! I am SHOCKED and HORRIFIED. What will the Blue Peter viewers think? [The same Blue Peter on which Gethin is stripped to his kecks on a near-weekly basis, you mean? - Steve] Someone think of the children! Gethin and Camilla were pretty ecstatic with their scores last week, which have given Gethin more confidence for the semi-final. Camilla reckons the paso doble and the Argentine tango have come at just the right time for Gethin - and boy, is she right. Imagine pre-acting lesson wooden Gethin hauling Camilla around the floor. Gethin's a bit worried that Camilla won't let him lead though. For the paso doble, Gethin has his chest on show (Yay! - Carrie) and a very sparkly top. They're dancing to 'Standing in the Way of Control' by the Gossip, which... actually kind of works. As demonstrated on Head Judge Len's dancing masterclass on Friday, Gethin twirls Camilla around him as though she were a cape, and flings her across the floor at the end. It's not brilliant, but it's pretty damn good. [The close-up of Camilla hurtling towards the camera is terrifying. I expect to see a hundred people using it as an animated .gif for an online avatar within the week. - Steve]
Bruce thinks it appropriate to go to Arlene first, who says it was "a real mix - sometimes like a Spanish omelette, sometimes like a fine rioja". What's wrong with a Spanish omelette, apart from its obvious lack of alcohol content? (I think that's exactly what's wrong with it from an Arlene perspective. - Carrie) Arlene didn't like Gethin's clumsy hands at times, which I believe is a drinkable offence. Len says he's "stuck here in the home for the bewildered", ie how dare Arlene criticise anything? It's not like you're there to judge anything. (Anyway, if Len is in a home for the bewildered, it's the right place for him. - Carrie) He says the paso doble is "the hardest dance for the male celebrities" - although I'm sure I've heard that line before about a different dance, possibly the rumba - and Gethin "dominated the floor". Bruno says that Gethin "came out, fire and brimstone, and went for it, yes", and there's definitely a "but" coming. Bruno wasn't impressed with his "Spanish line" and gets up to demonstrate again - somebody strap him down. Len objects, "Don't point that thing at me!" and Bruce has to get his whistle out. Craig was underwhelmed: "It didn't thrill me and I don't know why. You were dancing your backside off but it lacked a connection... there was something missing." Backstage, Gethin opines that he might have been a bit too aggressive. A clue - no. The judges all give them 8, except for Head Judge Len, who gives them 10 - has he lost all his other scoring paddles or something? Sorry, but that was not a 10. They have a total of 34, which is the lowest in this round, but not exactly shabby.
Next up, Alesha and Matthew with their second dance of the night - the Argentine tango. After some really cheesy filler about their dance journey, if you will. They have "real chemistry". Matt says Alesha has an "unimaginable amount of energy". Alesha's nans are so supportive. I think we know all this. Matt fawns over Alesha: "I'm honoured to have her. She's so precious to me. I wish I could keep her." Bless. They're dancing to 'I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You', and I'm struck by the contrast with how Len described the story of the Argentine tango - in this story, Alesha is clearly the coquettish aggressor in her little red dress. You go, girl! These two give great Acting, it's very passionate, and Alesha's nan is moved to tears. Aww.
Over to the judges, and Craig says he "loved the storytelling. You made the dance into a three-act play - fantastic." However, he did feel "a bit let down" at the lack of attack. Bruno interjects, "That was subtlety!" as though he even knows what that means. Arlene says that Alesha is "one of the best storytellers", so maybe she has a career ahead of her on Jackanory, but her "knees were bent on the scissor" and her "caressing of the floor was not as perfect as I would have liked". No, me neither. Arlene gets in a pre-emptive, "That's just my opinion", before Len and Bruno can start shouting at her for criticising, but to no avail. Len replies, "We respect your opinion, although sometimes it's wrong." Well, we've lost all respect for your opinion over the course of this series, Head Judge Len, so fuck off. Len says the Argentine tango is about flirting, and he thought it was "a delight". Finally, Bruno says it was "focused... the irresistible power of subtle seduction." Bruce says all three couples are his favourites, which sort of defeats the point of the word "favourite", but I won't tell him if you won't. Alesha and Matthew receive the same scores as they did for their paso - 9s from Craig and Arlene, 10s from Len and Bruno - giving them a total of 38 and bringing their total of 10s in this series to a stonking 14.
The penultimate dance is Matt and Flavia's waltz. In the VT, Matt says he wanted to do the show so that "people stop thinking of me as Deano, the lemon". Now we think of him as Matt Di Angelo, the lemon. All the usual stuff - they clicked as soon as they met, they're such good friends but they do argue. Matt: "I got all I could ever want out of it - and more." Intriguing. Flavia is wearing a very Christmassy long red dress with gold on the back. It's not the Christmas special yet! They're dancing to some soppy ballad, and I'm not sure it's a good idea to let one of the singers go acapella at the beginning, but fortunately the band kick in fairly swiftly. Phew. The pressure's on for this dance, because I think everyone's going to be comparing it to Alesha and Matthew's magical waltz. It's technically very competent, but in my opinion doesn't have the magic and isn't especially moving. (I quite agree. It was fine technically, but no real pizzazz. IN MY OPINION. - Carrie)
Len begins with, "I'm going to do something I've never done before", before giving Matt and Flavia a standing ovation. (I was expecting him to use his critical faculty. - Carrie) [Also, if Len has never given anyone a standing ovation prior to this night, I'm a kumquat. - Steve] Matt looks thrilled. Bruce says, "Thank you, I deserve it." Len calls it "a winning performance". Bruno says it's "the biggest comeback since Judy Garland in A Star Is Born", and seems to have some kind of orgasmic moment. Craig says we're "finally seeing your true potential", and Arlene says Matt's "hands are exquisite, your top line is elegant", and something about being a heart-throb. Bruce warns Matt to "Be careful!" Hee. Backstage, Flavia is proud of Matt. Drink! The scores are in - 10s from everybody. Bloody hell. I really am surprised that was the dance that persuaded Craig to give his first 10 of the series. Still, at least Matt and Flavia won't be getting the sympathy vote this week. [Not from the public, anyway. - Steve ] (Nonsense judging. - Carrie)
The final performance of the night comes from Gethin and Camilla. We're reminded that at the beginning of the series, Gethin had "a performance problem" and they tried zorbing, going to a samba club and a romantic night out, but it wasn't until they got an acting coach in, who told him to "Be Gethin the superhero!" that the amazing transformation occurred. Gethin keeps saying "the f-word" instead of "final". Camilla says she's not sure how big a Christmas card she'll have to get him "to thank him for an amazing time". Bleurgh. Camilla is looking very lady-of-the-night for their Argentine tango, which they are dancing to 'The World Is Not Enough' - another song with good storytelling potential. If I didn't need to hear the music, I would be tempted to mute it before the chorus because I'm worried it will be too much for my ears to take. Again, they seem to have captured the atmosphere of the tango.
Bruno says it was "moody, dangerous... the prince of darkness". I'm not sure if he meant to accuse Gethin of being the devil. "You work well with Camilla - you did a great job." Craig says he "couldn't agree more with Bruno", which makes a change, but he's surprised beecause he thought it would be a bit slow. Arlene is at it again: "The Argentine tango is the people's dance, and you're going to make people want to get up and study that dance." Umm, whatever. I think that was a compliment. [Hee. I have this mental image of "the people" standing around staring at Gethin and Camila's feet with one hand on their chins, going "hmm, yes, very good." - Steve] Len says it must have been hard to come out and dance after Matt and Flavia got four 10s, but it had "great atmosphere". Bruce tells Camilla, "Lovely dress - I used to have a lampshade like that." What, in your gothic boudoir? But did Gethin and Camilla's Argentine tango leave the judges "shaken, not stirred"? Snarf. Backstage, Gethin says Matt did a "fantastic job", awww. The scores are in - all 9s, for a total of 36.
A final peek at the leaderboard reveals that Alesha and Matthew are in their rightful place at the top with 76 points, while Matt and Flavia are close behind with 75, and Gethin and Camilla are the weakest link with 70. The standard has been very high this week though, so well done to all of them - it's anyone's guess who will go out "tomorrow". The filler will include the three-times world professional exhibition champions (and former Strictly competitor) Hannah Karttunen and Victor da Silva, and music from... James Blunt. Don't let that put you off, though - join Steve right here for all the bitching.