Last week: everyone finally fucking danced together, at last! Tom went into orbit (I wish), while Heather was lacklustre and laboured. This week, the competition heats up, and everyone looks quite mardy! This! Is Strictly Come Dancing! Live!
Tess Daly dresswatch: a matt grey number which supports her bosom and does not make her look pregnant. Her wardrobe people really have been doing very well this series. Tess says Bruce looks angry this week - Bruce says he is, because of the headlines last weekend about him quitting the show. Bruce reaffirms that he's not a quitter - he's just been sacked a few times. Then there's an odd little bit where Bruce is affronted because they thought he was 81, and Tess points out he's not 81 until February, and...that's sort of it. There's no punchline to it, just a bit about everyone remembering to send cards. Hmm.
Thankfully we do not dwell on this and instead introduce our stars: Tom and Camilla, Christine and Matthew, Lisa and Brendan, Austin and Erin, Jodie and Ian, Mark and Hayley, Heather and Brian, John and Kristina, Rachel and Vincent, Andrew and Ola, and Cherie and James. It's really quite alarming that we've been going for this long, and still there are so many people left in it. Don't get me wrong, I love this show, but even I'm starting to feel slightly fatigued at the concept.
Tess tells us things we already know about how the voting works, while Bruce explains that tonight is Paso Doble/Viennese Waltz night, otherwise known as Exciting/Boring night. Lisa and Brendan are up first, where a list of things that Lisa has advertised in her modelling work sends Bruce into a Generation Game flashback. Cuddly toy! Last week, Lisa's American Smooth was lovely, and the judges were all floored, giving her a score of 35. Lisa was flabbergasted to be (joint) top of the leaderboard, and now she's tasted it she wants to stay there. She tells us about her exhausting day, getting up early to be on the radio and then going straight to Brendan when she leaves. Somehow I think getting up for the radio show is probably the easier part of that. They talk about wanting to be there at the final, and Lisa wants to make an impression. "Explosion! That's the plan," she says.
They're dancing the Paso, and Lisa is dressed a little bit like Spider Woman, as in Kiss Of The... Sooner or later you're certain to meet, in the bedroom, the parlour or even the street, etc. Their routine is to 'Eye Of The Tiger', and it's pretty good. Very dramatic and with a good air of menace about it, although Lisa is pulling that Renée-Zellweger-sucking-a-particularly-sour-lemon face throughout, which she often does when she's concentrating. It was a great routine, though - and knowing how appalling most of the Pasos are going to be tonight, I made the most of it.
It's Dave Arch (of the Strictly band "fame")'s birthday today (Saturday), in case you were wondering. Send him a card, maybe stick a PS in there asking him to recruit some new singers. Just a thought. Obligatory joke about the judges of which Craig is the butt, and Bruce apologises to Craig, saying that that's how the joke goes down the line. There's no reason why they couldn't start with Craig and go the other way though, is there? Or indeed why they can't just list the judges in a random order, and ultimately make Head Judge Len the butt of the joke every week? I'd like that.
Head Judge Len explains how the Paso works, as if we didn't already know: the man is a matador and the lady is his cape, and it has to have drama and passion, but no props and definitely not a PINK SPARKLEE CAPE OF YEY, sadly. Len thought their routine was excellent, and had a bit of drama about it, but warns Lisa that sometimes her head falls forward and she loses her neckline. Bruno says that at times it was a little bit too Vogue and not enough blood and guts, and Len immediately jumps in with the rebuttals of this. Oh, joy. Bruno explains that all the work was in Lisa's face (does that mean she shares a plastic surgeon with Arlene?) but that she hunched her shoulders, which hampered her in places. Craig half-agrees with Bruno, saying that at times there was strength in her arms, but at others they lacked purpose and intent. Indeed, what is the purpose of arms? I'm still trying to work that one out. He adds that she was hunched in the spins, but it was a wonderful routine and he thought she did it well. Arlene thinks everyone has said it all, but does not take the opportunity to leave it there: instead she tells Lisa that she needs to open and widen her spine and open her chest. Like Mark Foster?
What follows is something I had to watch about four times before I figured it out: Bruce says Lisa needs to work on her chest, and she replies sunnily, "I can do that!" and holds her boobs a bit more prominently, and Bruce recoils - I thought at first because of the boob thing, but I think what actually happened is that Lisa accidentally spat on him when she was talking. That's my best guess, anyway. Lisa is hugely apologetic and exits bent double with laughter, heading for the House of Tesstosterone. Lisa tells Tess that the face was a Brendan face, which explains a lot. Lisa reacts favourably to the criticism, saying that she hadn't realised she was doing all those things wrong, and she can work on that in future. Good for her. Judges' scores are in: sevens from Craig and Arlene, eight from Len and seven from Bruno for a total of 29. Brendan whispers to Tess that he doesn't like sevens, and Lisa responds "he doesn't even like eights!" Hee. Brendan hotly denies this, and Lisa makes her peace with her score by invoking "lucky number seven". At least she didn't invoke Lucky Number Slevin, because that movie was fucking awful.
Next are Andrew and Ola, and we flash back to last week where he fucked up his American Smooth and had a minor breakdown in front of the judges, though just stopped short of sitting on the steps and having a cry, which is just as well, because you have to be as woobie-tastic as Matt Di Angelo to pull that off. Ola says that the key thing for this week will be keeping Andrew's bum in, so she ties them together during rehearsals. Kinky! It appears to be making a difference. Ola says she wants Andrew to tuck his bum in and remember his steps. "Doesn't want much, does she?" Andrew says.
They're doing a Viennese Waltz to 'Annie's Song', and amazingly, Ola's choreography does not begin with Andrew standing there like a statue while she writhes around him for a bit; instead they get straight on with the whirling around. It's not bad, really, but this is quite a boring dance, and this is quite a boring rendition of it. There's a bit in the middle where Andrew fucks up a little bit and judders along - nothing major, but just something I spotted when I was pausing the routine for recapping purposes. And also grabbing some Pro Plus. Bruce cracks the obligatory joke about what a chore it must be to be tied to Ola all day, and Head Judge Len explains the Viennese Waltz to us, which is to say: it's romantic, and involves lots of turning around. A bit like 'Total Eclipse Of The Heart', except without the power chords. [And the aliens. - Carrie] Len says he studied Andrew's bum, and he's mastered that - "Bumgate is no longer an issue". Len thinks Andrew needs to be less careful - it doesn't matter if he mucks it up, because it's better to go down fighting. Bruno says he can sense a flicker of hope on the horizon, and that Andrew's posture is better - once his confidence gets there, he'll improve. Craig says the butt is better, but Andrew isn't bringing his feet together before he goes off again. Arlene says there were technical faults, but for a fleeting moment he was into the dance, which is good. I see they're really not pushing that "GMTV presenter who can dance!" thing any more, are they?
House of Tesstosterone: Tess claims the judges are seeing "huge improvement", but unless she's talking about season two of Gossip Girl, I can only assume she's wrong, because I think "slight improvement" is the most honest translation of the judges' comments. She also points out that Andrew's scores have got lower every week, and Andrew's all "yeah, thanks." Scores: five from Craig, six from Arlene, SEV-UN!! from Len and six from Bruno, for a total of 24 - Andrew's highest score so far.
Christine and Matthew are next - Bruce says that Christine's hoping to bring a flavour of Spain to the programme with her Paso, and it helps that she's the presenter of The Juan Show. The audience groans, and Bruce says "it was just a little joke. Evidently", which is the first sign that Bruce is totally on fire tonight. In the VT, Christine says that the samba suited their personalities because they have a good laugh. Matthew says that Christine is a sweet, bubbly girl which is not at all what the Paso is like. Christine's attempt at "menacing" is pronounced "cute" by Matthew, which is not what she's going for, and Christine admits that attempting to be SRS BSNS just makes her start giggling. In training, Matthew tells Christine that she needs to scare him a bit more. This would have been a perfect opportunity for Christine to lift up her skirt and flash her vagina at him, but apparently this doesn't occur to her. They develop a Spanish character for her, Carmen Maria, to help her feel the menace.
Backstage, Tess continues the "you're too nice for the Paso" defence, and Christine says she finds it hard to be aggressive. She didn't have too much of a problem with it after the judges' comments in week four though, did she? Again, just saying. Scores: three from Craig, to gasps and boos, a ridiculous six from Arlene, Len shoots a death glare at Craig saying "that was worse than Andrew Castle's, then, was it?" and awards Christine seven, and six from Bruno, for a total of 22. And while there isn't enough time in the world to pull apart the layers of bullshit that surround Len these days, let me just make a couple of points here:
1. Yes, that was worse than Andrew Castle's routine. The biggest problem with his Viennese Waltz was that it was dull. It was, however, possible to watch without your hands in front of your face, which was not something I feel able to say about Christine's Paso.
2. Len can fuck right off, because according to his own logic, Jessie Wallace's quickstep was worse than anything Gary Rhodes ever did, which is absolute horseshit.
3. For someone who takes so much pride in being "the nice judge", that was a really shitty thing to do to Andrew. I'm no fan of Andrew's, but as far as I'm concerned, he owes Len a smack in the chops for that little dig.
Anyway, Tess tells Christine it's her lowest score of the competition, and Christine apologises to Matthew, saying that it's possibly his lowest score EVER. It's a nice sentiment, ruined slightly by the fact that she's mugging at the camera throughout. She hopes the public will save her so she can do a happy dance next week. Like Snoopy.
Austin and Erin are next. The slight mess up he made in his samba last week is blown out of all proportion in his VT, because we all know he's not going anywhere for a long time yet, but it's nice to see him at least pretend he might have been in danger. He says it was good to have a reality check. In training, his old rugby injuries flare up, possibly not aided by the moment where he's wearing a rubber band around his head and pings it.
They're dancing the Viennese Waltz to 'Send In The Clowns', which Carrie pointed out to me is, appropriately enough, a song written for someone who can't sing. This shouldn't trouble the band much, then. There are lots of close-ups of the footwork during the dance, some of which look slightly sloppy, but it's a good routine, all in all. Bruno says it's like watching the return of the king (overlong and full of short people?) and says that the routine held his attention throughout, without breaks. And considering this is Bruno, that's quite an accomplishment. Craig says he too was transfixed throughout, but he just wishes Austin had smiled once in it. The other judges all shout him down for it. Len says "this isn't Family Fortunes", which makes no sense. Arlene says that Austin can take control of this world class dancer with ease, and ends up with "send in Austin", which - what? Len reminds us that Austin is a MANLY SPORTSMAN and then makes his sex face while thinking of the dance. I'm very sorry for that mental image, but believe me, it was no more pleasant to witness first-hand.
House of Tesstosterone: Austin's been training all day every day, and admits to having been really nervous this week, but also really excited. Tess ignores all of this and asks him about his daughters, for some reason. [His daughters, of whom there ARE FOUR. - Carrie] Scores: eights from Craig and Arlene, nines from Len and Bruno for a total of 34. Tess tells Austin he's back at the top of the leaderboard. Yes, against those powerhouses Andrew Castle and Christine Bleakley - what an achievement!
Cherie and an unshaven James are next, and Bruce tells another joke with no punchline about her Kenco commercials. They fell to third place last week, and their VT features them saying they didn't deserve to be any higher anyway. James says there aren't enough hours in a day to perfect the Paso, and Cherie counters that there aren't enough hours in the year. The training footage does not look promising, with Cherie using the wrong feet, and almost breaking James's back. It ends on an awesome shot of Cherie bent over the balance bar asking "will it get better, James?" and James, with his face hidden, pulling a face and going "yeah!"
Their Paso gets off to a horrendous start when Cherie wanders off in an entirely wrong direction and James has to grab her by the arm and pull her back, practically pulling her off her feet. This isn't a great routine of theirs, sadly - it's quite obvious that Cherie isn't confident in her steps throughout and it isn't really dramatic or exciting like a Paso should be - other than the excitement that comes from wondering if she's going to fuck up again. Craig says the shaping of the arms and the timing was good, but it lacked a connection. He alludes to her having "lost her balance" at the beginning and Cherie, for her part, openly admits that she went completely wrong there. Bruce tells her never to own up to a mistake on this show. Arlene wishes Cherie could go back and do that again with fire in her belly, because she lost her courage this week. Len says Cherie will never dance bad(ly), because she's got natural rhythm (and she's not even black!), but her confidence let her down, and it wasn't up to her normal standard. "Not quite a ten?" says James, chancing his arm. Heh. Bruno tells Cherie she is naturally gifted, but her performance wasn't up to her usual standard tonight. They are actually letting her off quite nicely given that she screwed that one up pretty badly.
House of Tesstosterone: Cherie admits she's struggled with this dance, but she thinks the judges were fair. James says that she was thinking of her mistake throughout the dance. Scores: seven from Craig, eights from Arlene, Len and Bruno for a total of 31. That was really overmarked. I like Cherie, but no way did that deserve 31. [To mark her fairly would screw up their narrative arc. - Carrie]
Dance-off survivors Heather and Brian are next in line, and Bruce attempts a riff on the American English school of language-based humour, which Eddie Izzard has done far better in the past, so I'll skip right by it. In her VT, Heather says that when Craig called her samba "all the Ls", she knew he didn't mean luscious or lovely. Heh. She's a bit down this week after having been in the dance-off twice, so she goes off to do what she does best - singing at Warrington Parr Hall, apparently. Brian goes along and stands in the audience, bless him. He tells her she needs to take some of her confidence from the stage onto the dancefloor.
They're dancing the Viennese Waltz to Mariah Carey's 'Vision of Love', which you know is going to be an utter trainwreck of an interpretation by the band before the singer even sings a note. It's a shame, because Heather and Brian's dance is pretty nice, but I found it hard to focus on it with the horrendous singing in the background. As a result, I don't have anything much to say about it beyond MY EARS MY EARS D:
Arlene tells Heather this dance suits her, that she could feel the relationship, and she adored the shoulder shimmy. Head Judge Len, Dance Expert, refers to his notes and says he called it the "funky bit". He tells Heather she's been in the bottom two for two weeks, and Heather's all "I know?" But she maintained her posture and did well. Bruno calls her "a vision of loveliness", and that she was focused and connected. Craig found it "pedestrian" and "jagged" and "flat-footed". The judges fight again.
House of Tesstosterone: Heather says she wouldn't like to go home. That's pretty much it. Scores: five from Craig, "SEV-UNN!" from Arlene (she says it just like that too - hee!), seven from Len and eight from Bruno for a total of 27. Heather's highest score so far, which means she's - yes - movin' on up. Wah wah waaaah.
Leaderboard: Austin and Erin in first place, Cherie and James second, Lisa and Brendan third, Heather and Brian fourth, Andrew and Ola fifth, and Christine and Matthew at the bottom.
Mark and Hayley are next. There's a joke about Mark's near-nakedness last week, which ends as it always must with Bruce calling Arlene an old tart. Lovely. In the VT, Hayley says it's hard to get any aggression out of Mark, so she takes him boxing with Olympic medallist James DeGale. Hey, if nothing else, he'll be able to punch the judges if they give him low marks. Their Paso is to Kelly Clarkson's 'Since U Been Gone', obliterated by the singers, obviously, and what begins as a fairly awkward but at least reasonably aggressive dance soon crumbles when halfway through Mark completely forgets his moves and struggles to improvise. It's quite painful to watch, and my heart kind of goes out to him at this point, because that's quite a humiliating thing to have happen on national television. Bruno calls it a painful shambles, saying that Mark lost it so many times this week. Craig says it was "like a stick insect on acid" and "at times rather grotesque". Boo, hiss, etc. Arlene attempts to salvage everything by asking Mark if he swims with a rhythm, and keeps trying to plug away at it even though Mark isn't really getting it, and really it's nice of her to try and offer that kind of advice, but it's falling on deaf ears. Len says that Mark is not a natural dancer - "you're no good at dancing, I'm no good at swimming, it can't be helped." Eh, at least Arlene tried to be constructive, I guess. I think it's going to take a miracle to save Mark at this point.
House of Tesstosterone: Tess tells him to use the boxing training to give some fighting talk to the judges, and Mark says that he was focusing so much on his counting that he forgot. The ever-attentive Tess ignores this and pulls out a pair of swimming trunks and discusses how Mark might look in them. FIRE THIS WOMAN NOW. Scores: two from Craig, three from Arlene, six from Len (give me strength) and five from Bruno, for a total of 16.
Next are Tom and Camilla - Tom's hair is slicked back, and he looks a bit like Mathew Horne as a result. Hey, did you know Tom got married last weekend? It's certainly BRAND NEW INFORMATION to me. Bruce breaks out of his introductory joke to sing a little jokey song about marriage, which I imagine prompts the producer to have a small fit in the gallery. Tom's VT mentions that last weekend was perfect because he danced the American Smooth and then GOT MARRIED. Camilla went on his HONEYMOON because he has to train, and this really must suck for Mrs Chambers. She's a very understanding lady, clearly, and Tom says as much.
They're dancing a Viennese Waltz to 'I Can't Help Falling In Love With You' and in my eyes, he looks smugger than ever throughout, but I freely admit that I don't much care for Tom and therefore am hardly an unbiased witness. I don't know - it looks decent enough, but I don't see much of a romance in there - he looks more aloof than anything. Craig says that aside from a few flaws, it was gorgeous. Arlene thought it was a beautiful performance and they have a fabulous relationship - it was a whisper from perfection. Len didn't like it much, because Tom messed up his fleckle, and on every reverse turn he did a toe lead instead of a heel lead. There follows an amazing bit where Tom's eyes flick away as he goes over it in his head, all "moi?", and then he looks at Camilla and Len snaps "don't look at her, I'm telling you the truth!" Hee. Any smackdown of Tom is good by me. Len adds that Tom did the reverse turns "all on your balls", and everyone laughs. "We all missed that!" says Bruce. Len says Tom didn't work on refining the dance. Bruno calls Tom a smooth operator and says that he covered up the mistakes with assurance, and as a member of the audience, he is charmed - to which Len quite rightly points out that Bruno is a judge, not a member of the audience. Ugh, I can't believe I'm actually siding with Len.
House of Tesstosterone: O HAY YOU GUIZ TOM JUST GOT MARRIED. Scores: seven from Craig, nine from Arlene, seven from Len, and nine from Bruno, for a total of 32.
Oh God, John and Kristina - this is going to hurt. They are dancing a Paso - leading to a joke which implies John is senile and Bruce saying "I hope I don't end up like that". Meta-humour! Last week, John's samba sucked, and so did his personality, because now he's decided that the public loves him and therefore he can be as much of an ass as he wants. We see a clip of Arlene stomping to the judges' green room and complaining that "he" was awful, but we don't necessarily know that she was actually talking about John. John talks about having been in the cadets, and enjoying all the marching in the Paso. He drags Kristina around the rehearsal room, and all I can say is that I hope this show is stumping up to give her a year's subscription to Bupa.
John has at least remembered to adopt a frowning expression for this dance, but that's probably the most complimentary thing I'm going to be able to say about it. He doesn't appear to do any actual dancing - he just walks rhythmically around while Kristina sells the whole thing as much as possible. She deserves a medal, she really does. Bruce: "Oh, John - what can I say? That you'd believe?" Hee. "That bit at the start - were you dragging her off to be recycled?" Hee! Len says that Sergeant should be demoted to Private. Bruce calls Bruno "Craig" and Bruno says that it looked like "Dad's Army does the Paso", but applauds John for keeping in time. Craig says that John took marching to a whole new level and chooses to leave it there. Arlene says he looked grumpy rather than dramatic, but he looked like he had a good party. Charles Kennedy is in the audience, bizarrely.
House of Tesstosterone: John was thinking of Craig's comments from last week to get in the mood. Scores: three from Craig, six from Arlene, six from Len, and six from Bruno for a total of 21.
Rachel and Vincent are next. Rachel says in her VT that she panicked last week when she messed up - and here we were thinking it was just that she has no personality! In training, her mood has not lifted - so her fiancé Alex comes in to cheer her up. Rachel doesn't want to let Vincent down. Vincent really does not look good in profile. It makes him look like Bat Boy.
Their Viennese Waltz is to 'Everybody Hurts', and Rachel has a sparkly silver dress that makes her look like the ballerina inside a music box. Obviously this isn't the most fascinating routine because (a) it's a Viennese Waltz and (b) it's Rachel, but I rather like this. It's sweet and romantic and technically proficient, and I think that's really all we can ask of it.
Arlene thought it was wistful, romantic and charming, and she loved seeing an actual performance. Len found it all very pretty, but thought there was no performance. He shouts a lot, because he is rude. Bruno thought it was graceful and elegant, simple but effective. Wow, there is damning with faint praise there. Craig thought there was lots of storytelling in it, despite what Len said. Rachel heads to the House of Tesstosterone while the judges continue to argue. Rachel says it felt like a fairytale. Scores: eight from Craig, eight from Arlene, eight from Len and eight from Bruno, for a total of 32. So all that arguing, for everyone to give the same score. Egad.
Finally, it's Ian and Jodie. Aww, I love Jodie. Last week her American Smooth surprised everyone (by not being shit, is the subtext here). Jodie is amazed to be considered "the dark horse" and doesn't really believe it. Her John Krasinski-lookalike boyfriend (where can I get one of those?) is very proud of her. Jodie was flattered to have the same score as Rachel. She says the Paso face is very similar to a catwalk face, which seems to involve just holding your breath. Ian thinks Jodie has a great character for the dance, and then wears some bananas as horns. Hee! Their VT ends with them both doing "model face" into the camera, and seriously, these two are so cute. I love them.
Their Paso is to Blur's 'Song 2', which sounds like a bizarre choice but sort of works. Sort of. I think they've got the best sense of drama in their Paso out of anyone this evening, which excuses the slight lack of precision in my book. I like it, anyway. It's up there with Lisa's as the best Paso of the evening, but to be honest, that's not really a huge compliment. Bruno says this was "rough to watch", because Jodie went so much for attack that the precision went, and the moral seems to be "don't try so hard". Craig calls it "square" and "stompy", but found it exciting to watch. Arlene says that it didn't work for her. Len didn't mind it - it was competent. Not Jodie's best, not her worst. That's that, then.
House of Tesstosterone: Jodie really enjoyed it, but found the pace hard to keep up with. She's proud of herself given the timeframe she had in which to achieve it. Scores: sixes from Craig and Arlene, seven from Len and a Len-aping "SEV-UNN!" from Bruno. Hah, they're all at it tonight! Total score of 26, which Jodie is happy with, considering the comments. Ian realises his nipples are pert and attempts to cover them up. Jodie puts her hand over the little lump in his shirt. Hee.
Leaderboard: Austin and Erin at the top, Tom and Camilla second, Rachel and Vincent third, Cherie and James fourth, Lisa and Brendan fifth, Heather and Brian sixth, Jodie and Ian seventh, Andrew and Ola eighth, Christine and Matthew ninth, John and Kristina tenth and Mark and Hayley eleventh.
Recap: Lisa setting the bar high for the Paso, Andrew's dull Viennese Waltz, Christine's trainwreck of a Paso, Austin and Erin's romantic routine, Cherie not actually getting it wrong in this clip, Heather and Brian being a vision of loveliness, the bit of the Paso that Mark actually remembered, Tom not even registering Camilla was in the room, John marching around while Kristina dances, Rachel engaging Viennese Waltz Setting #5, and Jodie and Ian going a bit nutso with theirs, entertainingly.
Enrique Iglesias will be performing on the results show, as will the cast of Jersey Boys, and Brian and Kristina will show us how to mambo. Georgi will be bringing you all the details!