Round 3: Men
4th October 2008
Last week, it was the turn of the women, who were by and large better than the men, but were still mainly quite average. Heather was the queen of the lime and mango salsa, judging by her dress, Bruno told Lisa that her salsa didn't have the Jews, and Cherie was one class act. Gillian and Poor Anton were "distraught" to leave, and Christine was sorry to see them go. Tonight, the boys are back in town! They're more determined than ever to impress! This! Is! Strictly Come Dancing! Live! (Or it was when it was broadcast, anyway. I'm watching it on my PVR, so I have made a liar of you, Tess Daly.)
Daly Dresswatch: a full-length white number, which is reasonably flattering but so constrictive that it doesn't allow her to kick her leg out properly at the end of her dance with Brucie - which, by the way, seems to get worse every week. Is there a number I can call to vote Tess off? Bruce and Tess reminisce about the ladies from last week: Rachel Stevens, Cherie Lunghi, Jo Brand...oh no, wait, that's John Sergeant. Actually, he does have a bit of a Jo Brand face, despite my initial objections to that joke. His manner of speech is quite Jo Brand-like as well. You win this time, Forsyth. The camera cuts to Kate Garraway in the audience, who's all "eh, at least this joke wasn't at my expense for a change".
The couples are introduced: Tom and Camilla, Jessie and Darren, Christine and Matthew, Don and Lilia, Brendan and Lisa (whose grin appears to be been fixed in place with elastic bands), Austin and Erin, Jodie and Ian, Mark and Hayley, Heather and Brian, Gary and Karen, John and Kristina, Rachel and Vincent, Andrew and Ola, and Cherie and James. Phew! Watching them all clap to the end of the music just isn't the same without Alesha clapping in time and shimmying her hips, y'know.
Bruce jokes about the ladies being "safe as houses" this week, though obviously that means nothing in the current climate. They're really going all out on the topical humour this series, aren't they? The ladies will be doing a group swingdance at the end of the show, but first the men will be doing either a jive or a tango. The jive is probably my favourite of all the dances which are done on Strictly, by the way, so woe betide anyone tonight who lets me down.
Austin and Erin are first, and Bruce explains Arlene's "motor car" reference from last week, because apparently the Austin Healey is an actual car. I didn't know this, but then I'm homosexual. Anyway, the car was made in the 1950s, comfortably upholstered and very racy - that's the car, not Arlene. Wah wah wahhhhhhh. Austin's VT suggests he was very nervous on the first night, but it's not like it mattered because his waltz was awesome. Austin is now worried that there's a lot of pressure on him to be good at Latin as well as ballroom. Austin's dad, who apparently has jiving experience, comes into rehearsals to help out. Austin's dad looks like a less prickly Paul O'Grady. If he plays his cards right, Austin's dad could totally be the new Alesha's nans. Austin's dad mocks him for being a shortass. Heh.
They're jiving to 'You Can't Stop The Beat' from Hairspray. The first time I heard the band play this, I thought maybe the tempo was a little too slow, but it doesn't sound so bad on the second listen. Austin's jive is excellent, anyway, and dear God his ARMS. It's very hard to keep my eyes on Austin's legs when he's got guns like those. Anyway, Erin's smartly choreographed a bit in where Austin goes up to judges' table and showboats a bit. That'll go down well. Not that he really needs a gimmick, because this was great - very bouncy, lively, and fun to watch.
Austin has size four feet, he reveals. Bless. Bruce introduces the judges with a joke which calls Len a doughnut, so I'm all in favour of that. Head Doughnut Len says the jive is high-energy, and the kicks and flicks are difficult, as is getting the bounce out of the supporting leg. Austin did all of this "fantastic", but Len was offput when Austin winked at him. Oh Len, don't try to pretend it didn't make you moist. He is a SPORTSMAN, after all. Anyway, Len says whoever comes next has to be great. Looking at who else is on the roster tonight, I suspect that's unlikely. Bruno says Austin was "pumping and riding" that jive, which makes me think Bruno needs to stop reading erotica under the table while people are dancing. Bruno singles out Austin's performance during the syncopated section, which Arlene also agrees was excellent. Craig says that Austin's arms need a lot more work, but apart from that it was brilliant. [Craig is RIGHT, and I feel an urge to firebomb the Strictly studio to take out all the imbeciles who boo. For fuck's sake, we're not on Dancing with the Stars, where any mark below a 7 gets heckled. - Carrie] Arlene asks to see if Austin can get his arms all the way up, and it turns out he can, pretty much. Arlene says that Austin has set the standard for this series. Indeed.
House of Tesstosterone. Tess is AMAZED that a rugby player could be light in his loafers, Austin's all "pshaw" and gives Erin the credit for being an excellent teacher. Tess gets Austin to show us his guns, and seriously, they're terrifying. Scores: eights from Craig and Arlene, nines from Len and Bruno for a total of 34. Tess pretends there is any risk whatsoever of Austin and Erin ending up in the dance-off.
Next are Mark and Hayley. Oh dear. I like Mark, but I don't envy him having to follow Austin. We see Mark's D-U-L-L waltz in his VT, and Hayley tries to get him to have power and confidence in the tango. Mark is too shy to be aggressive, he confesses. Mark accidentally hits Hayley in the head during training, and Hayley cries partly from the pain but mainly from the frustration. Hayley has a brainwave, so Mark comes to train in his suit, and Hayley says it completely changes the way he holds himself. It does look better when he's in his suit, I admit. His limbs are still a bit all over the place, though.
Mark makes an effort to be imposing, and it's pretty good, if somewhat stiff. He's leading with his elbow, which I remember Craig saying was a bit no-no on It Takes Two this week. I hate to say it, but this routine is kind of dull, too. It's better than his waltz, though, and I imagine him getting encouragement from the judges for having improved. There's some rise-and-fall in his spins, which isn't great, and I think they finish slightly ahead of the music, but overall it wasn't too bad. Not excellent, not a car crash.
Head Donut Len says the tango should be sharp, aggressive and staccato, and it isn't suited to tall people very well. He thought Mark did quite a good job, but that the intro was too longwinded and there was too much "mincing around" at the beginning, because Mark is the wrong kind of SPORTSMAN and there are also those rumours which I shall not comment upon here, but overall he thought it was good. Oh, except it lacked heel leads. Bruce chastises Len for his use of "mincing around", and rightly so. Bruno says Mark looks great, but needs to deliver - it wasn't stunning, he has to ignite the audience. Bruno admonishes Mark for letting his posture slump at the end. Craig says he can see all the work Mark's put in, and it's a vast improvement from last time. He likes the energy, and the addition of the Argentine ganchos. He didn't like the beginning either and also calls it "mincey". He spotted rise and fall, and Hayley claims to have choreographed in a bit of foxtrot to explain it. [But really, what kind of excuse is that, when you're supposed to be doing the tango? Get with the programme, Hayley! - Georgi] Arlene tells Mark he has the ability to dance, but he lacks charisma, and tells Hayley to get Mark to an acting coach, pronto. Expect a Gethin-esque transformation in a fortnight, then. [We need Special Agent Peter Gallagher! As seen in panto with John Barrowman! - Carrie]
House of Tesstosterone. Tess asks again about the swimming trunks for the final, and can we please get over that? He won't be there. Fives from Craig and Arlene, sevUNN! from Len and seven from Bruno for a total of 24.
Tess throws back to Bruce, who totally misses his camera cue and runs across the stage. Next up are Gary and Karen, and we flash back to his disastrous cha cha cha, where he went wrong on the first step and it all went downhill from there. Craig scored it 1/10 and we're supposed to view this as a vast miscarriage of justice, but: clearly not. The public, in their infinite wisdom, saved him and hence he is here to dance another week. Gary and Karen bicker a lot in training, and I'm totally Team Karen on this one, because Gary's acting rather like a petulant teenager. Gary vows to improve for the live show. Let's see how it goes, shall we?
Their jive is to 'Lipstick, Powder and Paint' and once again Gary fucks it up at the very beginning. He's about two metres away from Karen most of the way through it, and at one point she has to grab him and hurl him into position. Poor Karen. She's going to eviscerate him when this is over. This was, believe it or not, even worse than his cha cha cha. It's also worse than anything Kate Garraway ever did, but don't expect the show to remark upon that. Arlene says it was enthusiastic, but Gary needs to stop counting in his head and feel the rhythm, and his footwork was flat as a pancake. [He wasn't bollocking counting in his head, he was counting OUT LOUD. You can SEE it. - Carrie] Len thought Gary's footwork was good, but Gary lost the timing as he went through it. Len says Gary did a good job considering all the stress he's been under. Except he's not under any more stress than anyone else, so whatevs. Bruno says the routine had "more holes than the surface of the moon" and points out that Gary was counting while he was going off. Craig says he was praying for Gary throughout the routine (weren't we all?). "I didn't see you on your knees," Bruce replies, to which Bruno shouts: "some people have!" Heh. [HAHAHAHAHAHA! - Carrie] Craig tells Gary to watch the lurching neck and the flat-footedness, but it wasn't a dance disaster. (Except we all know it was. They're just being nice so Gary doesn't get the sympathy vote to keep him in.)
House of Tesstosterone. Karen applauds the other celebrities and professionals for supporting Gary all week, and Gary agrees. Scores: three from Craig, four from Arlene, six from Len (are you fucking kidding me?) and five from Bruno. Seriously, at this point you could replace Len with a homophobic robot which randomly generates numbers between six and nine and it wouldn't make any bloody difference. [Srsly, too much time in America and the subsequent jetlag have addled his brain. He's fucking ridiculous. - Carrie] Anyway, Gary and Karen have 18, and Gary begs to be kept in so he can attempt ballroom.
John and Kristina are next. They go together like ramalamalamakadingadidingdidong, according to Bruno, but then so did Bradford and Bingley. So, we should be concerned that Gordon Brown is going to nationalise John and Kristina? Two weeks ago, John's waltz was applauded for its understatedness, and John says backstage that if he doesn't get through he'll speak to the prime minister and there will be repercussions. Heh. He's struggling with the imposing side of the tango in rehearsals, and Kristina encourages him adorably, as is her wont. She's my favourite of the new dancers, I think.
They dance to a song that the internet tells me is called 'Boulevard Of Broken Dreams' (not the Green Day one) and it's technically pretty good, but it doesn't really have the right chemistry for a tango, because John and Kristina's chemistry is chummy rather than charged or dangerous. But it's nice to watch, which is more than I can say for the last dance. Bruno says that John made it work, even though it's the opposite of what a tango should be. Craig thinks John is too nice for the tango, and that his posture wasn't quite right, and he needed more attitude. Arlene thought the problem was that John enjoyed himself too much. Len thinks dancing is about enjoying yourself, and that John did what he's good at. He thought John's footwork was good, and writes him an excuse note on the posture because he's old. I realise that poor posture is often a part of getting older, but how hard is it really to stand up straight for two minutes?
House of Tesstosterone. John tells Tess it had all the characteristics that people associate with him: passion, rhythm and raw sexuality. Heh. Scores: three from Craig, six from Arlene, six from Len and seven from Bruno, for a total of 22. And seriously, Craig? That was the same standard as Gary's jive? REALLY? I mean, I'm not the expert, but... [Well, Len ALSO thought it was the same standard as Gary's jive, so it MUST be true. - Carrie]
Quick glance at the leaderboard: Austin and Erin are first, Mark and Hayley are second, John and Kristina are third, Gary and Karen are bottom.
Time to catch up with the ladies, Bruce tells us. The VT for their swing training looks good, though Heather admits their first group dance last week was atrocious. Lots of people step on each other's feet. Heather: "When you get it right, you do feel that sense of elation, but I haven't felt that sense of elation yet." Hee. Cherie doubts her ability to do the leaps. Brendan beams at how quickly Lisa is picking it up. Jodie dances with Darren and makes him look positively Lilliputian. Rachel hopes they can give the boys a run for their money. Back in the House of Tesstosterone, Tess tells Christine that the judges thought she was elegant last week, and asks if she can do that again. Never mind the fact that elegance really isn't the point of swingdance, of course. Anyway, Christine thinks elegance is unlikely, but hopes for "vibrant". Hee. Tess asks Cherie if the girls' dance is better than the boys' merengue, and Cherie sits on the fence. Tess repeats the question to Jodie, and Jodie says the other girls can beat the boys, and she'll just stand at the back. Hee.
Andrew and Ola are next, and Bruce reminds us that Andrew was a SPORTSMAN in the 1980s, and cracks the obligatory "good game, good game" joke. The VT pretends that Andrew's first dance was good, when it really wasn't. Andrew says his daughters were proud, except what they really said was "I'm so pleased he didn't go out first," which is something else entirely. Heh. Andrew is not good in rehearsals, and Ola is getting somewhat tetchy. Her accent is becoming this bizarre fusion of Polish and Essex girl. It's quite funny.
They're dancing to '20th Century Boy', and Andrew's not too bad actually, although he's sticking his bum out quite hilariously, and you can see his brain going "KEEP YOUR HEAD UP" at all times. There's also a bit where he impersonates a woodpecker against Ola's neck for reasons which shall remain a mystery to me, I'm sure. It's a decent performance, anyway - better than last week, though not great.
Craig admires Andrew's courage, but says that it all fell apart when Andrew got into hold - the hand on Ola's back was very splayed. He calls Andrew on his sticky-out bottom, which he knows is because Andrew is trying to flex his knees. Arlene tells Andrew that the first rule of dance is to be straight (HA!), and Andrew needs to stop being the leaning tower of Pisa. Also, she notes she's never seen headbanging in a tango before. Hee. Len points out that Andrew is not an actor, but that he did well to create the passion. Len didn't like the headbanging either, mind, but he thinks it was a "jolly good try". Bruno says it was "like a house with subsidence held together by hope," but it didn't work. Arlene disagrees, and they all start bickering (except Craig, which is why we love him), and Bruce has to get them all to shut up.
There's a show of support for Andrew in the House of Tesstosterone. Ola says Andrew has been working hard. Andrew admits he's been dancing the tango round the bedroom naked to practice, and Ola squeals. I have a feeling that bit of information may have been withheld from her before now. Andrew says there's a real freedom to it. Good God. Four from Craig, "too much information - six" from Arlene (hee), seven! from Len, and five from Bruno, for a total of 22. Andrew says he will live with that, and get better. Fair enough.
Next are Tom and Camilla, and there is joking of the "he's not a doctor, but he plays one on TV" variety. Tom was scared to open the show last week, but his cha cha cha got good reviews, by and large. Tom does his best in his VT to cultivate rivalry between him and Austin, because let's face it, this is the best way to build a narrative which will keep him in the competition. Camilla has choreographed a dive into the jive - she is a poet, but she does not know it. Tom looks knackered in rehearsals, and in the spins his arms look all limp and spindly. I do like his sequinned waistcoat he's wearing for his dance, though.
They're jiving to 'Black And Gold' by Sam Sparro (and Tom is in black and Camilla is in gold - how convenient!). I'm not a purist when it comes to soundtracking - hey, I once went to a salsa class where they taught us a routine to 'Toxic' by Britney Spears. However, I don't think this is the right music for a jive, I'm afraid. It's too slow and meditative. It just doesn't have the POW! of 'I'm Still Standing' or 'Smiley Faces'. As a result, it tends to make Tom's jive look a little bit lumpen, possibly unfairly so. It's quite camp again, and I think this is just how Tom dances. And when they spin, his arms are just shapeless and weird. However, grading on the curve of tonight's largely unimpressive dances, this ought to be near the top. [He also needs to stop pressing his lips together when he's concentrating. - Carrie]
Arlene is enigmatic about whether this was actually better than Austin's jive (answer: it wasn't). Len says Tom is right there with Austin (he isn't), and that the girls had better watch out, because with the two of them on the show there will be sparks flying. Bruno calls Tom a "master of spins" [surely missing out on a "spin doctor" occupation-related pun - Georgi] and can't wait to see what Tom's got in store in future. Craig thought it had fantastic personality and musicality, but it needs more energy in the flicks and kicks. Len tells Craig he's talking about the music, because Len is Head Doughnut and God forbid anyone dare to disagree. Ugh. Craig disputes this, but Len shouts him down. Let's just replace Len with an 8 paddle on legs and have done with it.
House of Tesstosterone. Tom is humbled backstage and says Austin set the bar too high for him to beat. We are reminded that Tom has a wedding to plan, and he says that he'll probably have his stag do in the studio. Scores: seven from Craig, eight from Arlene, nine from Len, and nine from Bruno, for a total of 33. Personally I think that was overmarked, but I can see how the judges would've been bursting to give another good score after all the mid-20s tonight.
Closing the show are Don and Lilia. Bruce does a mock-Shakespeare monologue because Don is a srs actor. Don's cha cha cha did not get a good score with the judges, and he gave it his all in the danceoff, and was quite surprised to be saved by Len. He's not discouraged, however, and is raring to go with the tango. Lilia is impressed with the fire in Don's eyes. Don says it's not easy because it's terrifying, but he wants to dance well for Lilia. Aww.
Their tango to 'Whatever Lola Wants' is rather good, actually - I don't know if it's technically great, but it's haughty and staccato and dramatic and great to watch, which is good enough for me. Don looks really into it, which is good after seeing him looking so lost in his cha cha cha in the first week. Bruno calls it "a tango with a grudge", and applauds Don for telling a story with conviction. Craig praises Lilia's choreography, and aside from the hunched shoulders, he loved it. [Lilia always does amazing choreography that plays to her partner's strength. She is awesome. I thought Don's head and neck looked awkward, but that may just have been the shoulders. - Carrie] Arlene says it was like a tug of war - masterful. Are tugs of war generally masterful? Anyway, she liked it. Len says that Don was a "gnat's scrotum" from being kicked off two weeks ago, and he's come back to deliver a fantastic tango. Strictly Come Bitching apologises for any nightmares which may have been caused by the use of the words "Len" and "scrotum" in the same sentence.
In the House of Tesstosterone, Don gives all the credit to Lilia and says that she "saved" him, and Lilia's all "aww, no, you're lovely!" Lilia hopes Don's hard work paid off because she thought he was great. Scores: sevens from Craig and Arlene, eights from Len and Bruno for a total of 30. Lilia says to Don that she hopes he realises how much better he is. I hope that Don might break into a burst of 'So Much Better' from Legally Blonde: The Musical, but sadly it is not to be.
Final leaderboard is as follows:
1. Austin and Erin
2. Tom and Camilla
3. Don and Lilia
4. Mark and Hayley
5. John and Kristina
6. Andrew and Ola
7. Gary and Karen
Based on that, Gary and Mark are my predictions for the dance-off this week, but we shall see. Tess reminds us that, to paraphrase Captain Planet, the powers is ours, and we should vote. None of the men really excite me enough to vote, to be honest. Austin's great, yes, but no way he'll be in the dance-off.
Time for the ladies' group swingdance. It's pretty good, actually. I catch Rachel looking at her feet, Jodie gets stuck at the back a lot, Heather kind of loses her way halfway through, Lisa's actually pretty good, Jessie's giving it some welly, Christine's doing well, and Cherie makes it look effortless. There's a false end and the audience clap, but then it all kicks off again. That was much, much better than their group dance the first week, and much better than most of the individual dances tonight, to be honest.
Bruce asks Len who stood out. Len thinks it might have been the best group dance he's seen on any of the Strictlys, and what stood out for him was James Jordan's haircut. Heh. Bruno thought they all took to it brilliantly, but he thought Christine stood out in particular. Craig is asked if anyone needs more lessons, and Craig singles out Jodie, but is encouraging, saying she needs to just think ahead of the beat [because OMG it is SO DIFFICULT for TALL PEOPLE to DANCE! - Georgi]. Bruce puts the same question to Arlene, and she says that Len always tells her she looks for the worst in people, so she was watching Jessie throughout, but Jessie didn't put a foot wrong and smiled like a big smiley thing. Wow, backhanded compliments for the win!
Quick recap: the least interesting part of Austin and Erin's amazing jive, Mark attempting to be dramatic and semi-succeeding, Gary's execrable jive, John's nicey-nicey tango, Andrew pecking Ola's neck - ha ha ha HA ha, ha ha ha HA ha, hahahahahaha, Tom and Camilla's slightly D-U-L-L jive and Don's theatrical tango.
Results will be on at 8.10pm on Sunday (so about 25 minutes then), Andrea Bocelli will be performing [the poor boy's BLIND, Steven! - Carrie], and I believe Georgi will be recapping. See you then!