TX Date: Saturday 26th September 2009
Last night on Strictly Come Dancing: the second group of celebrities shook it on down. Ricky Whittle was lauded, Jo Wood was criticised, and Len made a series of obvious and yet excruciating puns. Those of you who were surprised by any of this...you might want to go back and start again with series one to six, because seriously. Tonight it's Latin night, and everyone is shitting a brick, essentially. Titles!
We have Bruce, and we have Tess. They're still not dancing together, a development I find both satisfying and oddly unsettling, though I'm sure I shall come to terms with it over the next 438 weeks. Daly Dresswatch: a red halterneck number that is largely flattering, but does have the unfortunate side effects of a) making her look quite angular and b) making her tits look like torpedoes. Still, I've seen worse, so I'll let this one pass.
Bruce tells Tess that doing the show has caused him to miss the opportunity of a lifetime: they wanted him to be the new Sugababe. Ooh, topical! And then the show does that weird thing where having done the joke, it somehow gets stretched out as though it should have a second punchline, but then it doesn't. It's quite strange.
The stars of our show are introduced, and for those of you who still haven't managed to learn who's in it this year, I shall repeat it once more: Rav Wilding and his dance partner
First up tonight are Phil and Katya. Bruce, unsurprisingly, struggles pronouncing Katya Virshalas's name. There's a joke about them both being nicknamed "cat" and it all resulting in them having kittens about tonight's dance. Said joke makes me want to start coughing up hairballs. Last night Phil's ballroom went down surprisingly well, and he thinks the Latin is his better dance. There are then some rehearsal shots of Phil fucking up his cha cha cha, naturally. He's enjoying the training, though, and doesn't want to be the first one to go home. Incidentally, while everyone says that this week, I can't help wondering if most of them were thinking "and I won't, because Jo Wood is in my group."
Phil's hip action, what there is of it, is rather terrifying. They're dancing to 'Daddy', and Phil spends the early moments of the dance looking like he's trying to hold a hernia in place. That said, as much as I am not a Tuffers fan, he's very much in the spirit of the dance and being all cheeky-chappy about it, and his technique seems fairly good. At the end, Bruce tells Phil that now he's only poking his tongue out when he looks at the judges. Heh.
Bruce welcomes back the "fabulous" "singers" and the judges. There's an obligatory poor joke here, about Len having presumably gone out for dinner last night because he was overheard saying "I could murder an Italian", and I'm transcribing this only because it's worth it for the consolatory shoulder-rub Alesha gives Bruno on hearing the punchline. Heh.
Len's asked what he's hoping to see in the cha cha cha that we didn't get last weeek, and Len says he would like more rhythm. He tells Phil it was like the England cricket team after winning the Ashes: from magic to tragic. I am so homosexual that I had to have my boyfriend explain the genesis of that joke to me. Look, I don't follow the rugby, okay? Len tells Phil he didn't like his posture, and the New Yorks were a bit strange, but on the positive side, he got through it without fucking up majorly, so, er, well done. Alesha tells Phil that the cha cha cha is a cheeky dance, and Phil brought that cheekiness. She says that we all have to bear in mind that last night's dance was all about perfecting the heel leads, whereas tonight's was about using the balls of his feet, and it will take time to perfect those cha cha walks. Essentially, Alesha's feedback is very much of the "I can so too comment on the technical aspects of the dance, so SUCK ON THAT HATERS", and good for her, quite frankly. She does seem a lot more relaxed this week, and I for one thought her judging improved considerably as a result, but I'm sure the tabloids will still be calling for her head on a platter all the same. [Even the Daily Heil is surprisingly pro-Alesha this weekend. YOU GO, QUEEN ALESHA! - Carrie] She finishes by telling him to not let his energy and enthusiasm detract from getting his technique right. Bruno says that Phil is very likeable, but he doesn't always get his feet right, which affects his hip action. He finishes up by saying, "You've got work to do, but you're great to look at", and then gets all "NOT IN A GAY WAY, MIND" about it, and Phil wiggles his bum at Bruno. Heh. Craig says it didn't set the studio on fire, and the arms were flagellant (I assume he said that, rather than "flatulent", which it kind of also sounded like), and says that his tongue got more action than his hips, but he reiterates that Phil is a likeable personality.
Phil and his gold shirt and the new girl head back to the House of Tesstosterone, where he wonders what "flagellant" means. Scores: Craig 4, Len 6, Alesha 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 22. That gives him a total of 51 for both dances.
Next up are Craig and Flavia, who are dancing a "raunchy rumba". I was under the impression that was the only kind. Craig's VT shows his messy tango from last night, where he lacked finesse. He admits to having been disappointed. He's enjoying the rumba, and was good at it when Flavia was teaching him the moves, but then the second phase of tuition came in and his dreams crumbled to dust. He's apparently feeling the pain at this stage, and asks Flavia if it's supposed to feel like his arms are coming out of their sockets. Yes, replies Flavia. "There's always painkillers," admits Craig to the camera. Heh. Or just take whatever it is Bruno takes before each show, Craig - that way everything will seem much sunnier.
Craig begins by doing some Acting as a kind of cocky bloke about town as Flavia slinks over to him, to the strains of 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?' His arm movements are a bit nothingy, and it all seems a bit...forced, I guess. I think my problem with this routine is, that as much as I love Flavia, she has essentially choreographed a routine that is too difficult for this stage of the competition. It's a routine that shows her talents off beautifully, but unfortunately it also shows up Craig's limitations. The Acting is nice, though, and I like their chemistry as a couple. I just fear that they're trying to run before they can walk. [Or dance, in Craig's case. - Carrie]
Len says that he wants to see more hip action in tonight's rumbas, and he thought Craig's cucarachas showed that, but the rest of it had too much posing, and the running promenades were clumsy, though he thought the performance aspect was good. Alesha thought his posture was okay, and that he'd made an effort with his hands and the attention to detail therein - she disagrees with Len on the hip action, because she thought it was more upper body instead of coming from his feet where it should, but she commends his effort. "I knew you'd fall out with Len eventually," remarks Bruce. Alesha, darling, if you ever do decide you want to whack Len around the head with the number seven paddle, you know you have my support. Bruno says that he likes Craig's focus, but he needs to caress the floor with his feet - it was too mechanical. There is work to do, but his determination is great. Craig found it all a bit too stilted and full of abrupt stops, and felt that he was presenting Flavia all the way through it rather than presenting the story, but he believes that The Other Craig can dance, and in his "hort of horts" (CHAR CHAR CHAR), he believes Craig has a lot of potential to progress. Bruce then asks Contestant Craig what the story of the dance was, and Craig explains that it was about a cool guy who thinks he can have any woman he wants, but gets his heart stolen and broken by this woman. Bruce turns to the judges all, "you didn't know that, did you?" I appreciate what he's trying to do there, but if the judges genuinely didn't know that, then isn't the dance essentially a failure?
Craig and Flavia trot off to the HoT, and Tess asks Craig how he's feeling. "It's tough at the top, isn't it?" Craig deadpans. Scores: Craig 5, Len 6, Alesha 5, Bruno 6 for a total of 22, which gives him a total of 44 for both dances. Tess reminds Flavia that she was out first last year and probably doesn't want to repeat that this year. Flavia's like, "Yeah, thanks for that."
Laila and Formerly Poor Anton are the next couple to dance. Her tango went down well with the judges and scored 30, despite a fairly major cockup in the middle. They were pleased with their score, anyway. Their training footage shows Laila asking Anton if he will be supporting her when she goes back, and Anton replies, "Of course," and then starts cheering, "Laila, you're the best!" Snerk. Their training does not look terribly promising, and Laila admits it's hard for her to let Anton have the last word, though by and large they seem to be getting on fairly well.
Laila's wearing a skimpy blue dress that wouldn't look out of place on Ola, and looks fabulous. Their cha cha cha is to 'Sway' and I have to say, I'm impressed with Laila's confidence at this stage, because her movements are all very definite, which is an interesting contrast to the hesitancy we just saw from Craig. It's not the most fascinating routine I've ever seen, but then it is Anton trying to choreograph Latin.
Craig loved Laila's spin into her backdrop, but they got out of sync a couple of times, and he thought the whole thing lacked excitement. He thinks there's a lot more in Laila that we didn't get to see tonight. Len says that Laila has lots of potential, and he loves to see a bit of basic in a routine, but the whole thing was very safe, and he thinks she can handle more choreography than this, though he appreciates last night's choreography was full-on. Alesha agrees that it lacked the attack and wasn't as good as last night's, and Laila needs to "smash it more". Bruno is incensed at the "waste of all that magnificent equipment...yesterday I was going crazy for you! Now, I want a divorce." Hee, I do love a good Bruno flounce.
House of Tesstosterone: Laila says the judges' comments were fair enough, because they're the experts. A slight pause while several hundred incensed Arlene fans chorus "EXCEPT FOR THAT NEW GIRL". Anton thought she did a good job with a tricky dance, and that they're saving the best for later. He even hints that he might go topless if they stick around, prompting Tess to protest, "not until you've waxed." Tsk: such blatant bias against the hirsute. I'm going to write a Strongly Worded Letter. [Srsly. Tess always moans about hairy chests. What's wrong with the woman? I assume Vernon waxes till he bleeds. - Carrie] Scores: Craig 6, Len 7, Alesha 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 25, and a total of 55 overall.
Sticking with the Footballers' Wives alumni, next up are Zöe and James. Initially, when I heard Zöe was going to be competing this year, I intended to recap it as though she was doing the entire thing in character as Tanya Turner, but to be honest, I think I've got more than enough unfunny running gags permeating my recaps these days, so I shan't be doing that after all. Though I may not be able to resist the odd reference to covering stolen babies in fake tan: I am only human, after all. The judges adored Zöe's opening waltz, but she's concerned about having to be sexy for the rumba. Apparently Zöe struggles when James tells her to be sexy. Well, it does sort of imply that up until the point he said that, she was being unsexy, which I can't imagine is that great a motivator for anyone. James wishes Zöe could share his confidence in her, and I guess we've got our "you don't know how good you are!" contestant for this year all sorted now.
Zöe and James are dancing to 'Out Of Reach'. I'm not a fan of the whole Cindy Beale thing they've done with her hair, but I think their rumba is rather lovely - very sensual, nicely understated and by and large, very well performed. At this point I start to wonder if the public's general antagonism towards James might take a break this year, but somehow I have my doubts. Alesha tells them she loved it - she said she expected a Tanya Turner-style filthy rumba, whereas this was tasteful (despite the fact that Zoe's outfit is the sort that would make even Ola feel a tad exposed) and brilliantly acted. Bruno says he "felt something growing - big and powerful". Ooer. He loves how they were in constant eye contact and still danced so well. Craig calls it "gob-smackingly good", like looking through a keyhole at a private moment. "Oh, you're one of those?" asks Bruce. Heh. Len liked Zöe's arms and thought she danced very well, but he thought it was more suited to a bedroom than a ballroom because it was too raunchy for him. Well, that's a problem to take up with James rather than Zöe, surely?
House of Tesstosterone: Zöe says that it was scary at first getting so intimate with James so early on. We are informed that Zöe's fiancé is 6ft2, and James goes, "Oops". Heh. Scores: Craig 8, Len 7, Alesha 8, Bruno 8 giving Zöe 31, and a total of 61 overall. Not too shabby.
Halfway through leaderboard update: Zöe is top, Laila second, Phil third, and Craig at the bottom.
Next are Jo (who looks like she thinks she's doomed) and Brendan. We're reminded of her unfortunate waltz from last night, and Brendan lifts her spirits backstage, bless him. In training, Jo admits that learning two dances at once is a struggle. She tells Brendan, "I know what I'm doing wrong: everything." Heh. She promises to "hold the frag [sic] for all the feisty young grannies out there."
Her dress is very odd, like she has a long, limp metallic penis. Their rumba is to 'Fallen', and...well, it is better than her waltz, but not by a lot. It's rather awkward, and her hands are all over the place. She does pull off some fairly tricky choreography in parts, though, so she's obviously not a totally lost cause (and kudos to Brendan for trying to choreograph something challenging for her and pulling it off). Bruno tells her that rumba is very difficult, THOUGH NOT AS DIFFICULT AS IT IS FOR MEN, because it exposes everything, and essentially it wasn't very good, but she should be proud of herself nonetheless. Craig says the best part was when she was standing still writhing, which Brendan takes exception to. Len says that it would've been so easy for Brendan to do all the choreography himself, and congratulates Brendan for his courage in actually getting Jo to do a full-on rumba. Ugh, Len and I just shared an opinion on something. I feel grubby. Alesha thinks the song choice was lovely (always a worrying opener), and tells Jo that she preferred tonight's dance to last night, because it suited Jo better, and then basically patronises her a little bit and ends with what is essentially "well done dear". Bruce tells them they're his favourites.
Jo retreats to the safety of the House of Tesstosterone. She would love to come back next week, and Brendan tells her it was the best she's danced that dance and not to listen to "that idiot on the end" [and also introducing a worrying variant of nationalistic prejudice by complaining about Craig being Australia - Carrie]. Scores: Craig 3, Len 5, Alesha 5, Bruno 5, giving Jo a total of 18 for tonight and 36 overall. Brendan tells her that if they're in the danceoff, "We're going to do it for us, okay?" It scares me when Brendan is sweet.
Up next are Richard and Lilia. We review his so-so waltz, and Lilia thinks it's a miracle for him to be able to dance at all, essentially. Heh. Lilia admits in a VT that Richard has no natural rhythm, but she likes a challenge. [A cha-cha-cha-challenge, which Alesha introduced to the competition two years ago? - Carrie] Richard has been practising by himself, and Lilia says that if they gave out trophies for dedication, he'd win the biggest one.
Their cha cha cha is to 'I'm Your Man', and the hip wiggling is rather terrifying. Richard falls over his feet a little bit and then wiggles his arms ineffectually. He's doing his best to put on a performance, and deserves credit for that, but a masterful cha cha cha this is not. [Oh, I loved it. I love Lilia's choreography, and I love that she always gets a performance out of her partners no matter how inept they are. She is all kinds of awesome. - Carrie] Len says that he likes how Richard comes out confident, though his hips aren't there. "He's been on a horse his whole life!" protests Lilia. Heh. Alesha says that Richard is adorable, and brought a smile to everyone's face - she agrees that he lacks natural rhythm, but she doesn't care. She says that it was more of a jive than a cha cha, and Lilia makes a "bitch I will CUT YOU" face. Alesha then talks over Bruno to compliment Richard on his attitude, which probably won't win her any fans. Craig says that it was full of timing issues and was rather wooden, "but I suppose in a vague way, it was entertaining". High praise indeed! Bruce tells Richard that he's his second favourite, prompting Lilia to ask, "Am I your first?" Hee.
In the House of Tesstosterone, Lilia says she had lots of fun, and Tess tells Richard to be happy he made Craig smile. Scores: 4 from Craig, fives from everyone else for a total of 19, giving him a sum total of 38 for both dances.
The Chosen One Ricky Whittle and his partner Natalie Lowe are up next. His waltz last night got rave reviews, and Ricky is thrilled that Len called them a "formidable couple". In rehearsals, he's concerned that he's "not snake hips", and thinks he looks like a girl when he's spinning. Ricky says it's a good job he and Natalie get on well because they're nose to nose for most of the dance.
Their rumba is to 'Stepping Stone' (Duffy, not the Monkees, obviously), and bugger me, Ricky really is very good. Like, everyone-else-might-well-go-home-now levels of good. I hope that there's a dance or two he's less gifted at, not because I have anything against Ricky, but just because I remember how boring Dancing On Ice got when Ray Quinn was such an obviously more accomplished skater than everyone else. [VOMIT. Who is this Ray Quinn of whom you speak? - Carrie] Alesha says that it's refreshing to see a male celebrity who can dance this well so early on (in her two weeks' experience as a judge), and she's really excited to see the rest of his Journey. Bruno loves that he is so macho and in control, and has rarely seen that sort of display so early in the competition. Craig thinks Ricky was born to dance, and has never seen a first Latin dance by a male celebrity done that well. Not that we're being niche about this. Len tells Ricky that dance is all about light and shade, and this was too fast and sharp, that he needs to get a blend of movement in there, though he is still the one to beat.
House of Tesstosterone: Ricky ascribes all of his success to Natalie, who is a great teacher. Scores: Craig 8, Len 8, Alesha 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 32, giving him 65 for both night's dances.
To round things off, here are Natalie and Vincent. She was disappointed with her unanimous sixes last night, as she would've liked a seven or an eight. She's enjoying the preparations for her cha cha cha: "I'm not a self-conscious person. I've got a bum on me, so let's move it." That's the spirit! You can see some of her aforementioned bruises in the training footage. They really do look quite nasty.
I have to say I love how this routine starts: with Natalie going out onto the floor and doing a bit of cha cha cha all by herself, really targeting the audience. You've got to be quite brave to begin like that so early in the competition. It may not be the most technically proficient routine in the world, but I'm very much enjoying it. Craig liked it but didn't love it - Natalie is lifting her feet up too much, but she did a great job and gave it verve and energy. Len loves her enthusiasm and thinks it was better than her tango. Alesha says that Vincent showcases Natalie's talent well, and says that if Natalie can get her technique up to the standard of her performance, she's got a real job. Bruno thinks she was too nervous to fire on all cylinders and got a few bits wrong, but he knows she can come back and show everyone what she's made of. Tinsel, if her dress is anything to go by.
In the House of Tesstosterone, Natalie wonders if going last made the nerves get to her because she sat and had to watch everyone going ahead of her. Scores: Craig 6, Len 7, Alesha 7, Bruno 6 for a total of 26, which gives her 50 for both dances.
And so all eight couples have danced, leaving us with the leaderboard as follows: Ricky on top, then Zöe, then Laila, then Phil, then Natalie, then Craig, then Richard, and poor Jo at the bottom. So, exactly as it was last night, then.
The phone lines open, and we get a recap VT of all the couples featuring both dances from both nights. You don't need me to go through that again, do you? No, good.
At this point, I expect the show to finish, but then I realise that we're just going right through to the results this year. That's going to take some getting used to. And so we stay with Tess in the HoT, where Zöe says that no one wants to go home, Phil says that he's been bitten by the Strictly bug, and Jo says she doesn't want to let down her knight in shining armour Brendan.
To kill some more time until the results, Bruce tells us that one of next week's dances will be the paso doble, and to show us how it should be done, here are the professionals. They're dancing to that last Bond theme that no one liked, which eventually segues into U2's 'Vertigo'. I do like a good paso, and this is an excellent paso, but there's not a lot I can say about it. I mean, it's hard to recap dancing at the best of times because it's a bit like trying to sing in morse code, but suffice to say it is very dramatic, and at least gives us a brief glimpse of lovely Matthew Cutler.
After that, we go to the judges for more feedback. Craig is asked what gave Ricky and Natalie their edge, and Craig thinks that Ricky really listens to his partner, and Natalie's choreography is exquisite. Len is asked how important technique is at this stage, and Len says that at this stage you can't bombard the celebrities with too much information - he's happy if they can come out and perform at this stage, and if they get the technique right, that's a bonus. Alesha is asked who was the biggest surprise, and Alesha says Zöe and James because she proved she can do ballroom and Latin equally well, and now she feels they've got a competition on their hands. Bruno is asked who he's looking forward to seeing again, and he says Laila, because he thinks she's got more to offer than we saw tonight.
Now we're back with Tess again, good God. Natalie says that if she's lucky enough to still be here next week, she'll be in the training room 24 hours a day. Laila says she hopes she can live up to Bruno's expectations, and that she's got a quickstep next week, which is Anton's forte. Ricky says he will try to cope with the long filming days and the demands of training, but having Natalie as a teacher will help. Then we get a trail from lovely Claudia for It Takes Two, where the eliminated couple will be on Monday.
And now we've got another dance showcase, to kill a bit more time, as Anton and Erin, Ian and Natalie and Vincent and Flavia do a quickstep to 'My Heart Belongs To Daddy'. It's pretty awesome, but once again, the written word doesn't really do it justice. There's even a cutaway to Craig laughing his little socks off behind the judging panel, that's how great it is.
Then Bruce sits down with Darcey Bussell again, and she tells us that she's had a sneaky peak with the contestants, where she didn't give them a ballet class because that would be information overload at this point, but she gave them a warmup that they can all do in their dressing rooms. And then we get to see a VT of it. Everyone is very excited to be taught by Darcey. Zöe cuts a slit into her ballet shoes for reasons best known to herself, and is gently rebuked by Darcey. Darcey reveals that there are some jokers in the pack, and she teaches the male celebrities to walk LIKE BLOKES as they dance. Len will approve.
The lines have now closed, but it's still not time for the results, because before that we have abysmal fucking jazz gnome, Jamie Cullum. Sorry, Jamie, no recap for you. Record some music that is in any way tolerable to listen to and I may rethink my position, but until then: *fast forwards*
Right, finally it's time to reveal the results. In no particular order, the couples who will definitely be returning next week are: Ricky and Natalie, Laila and Anton, Zöe and James, Phil and Katya, Natalie and Vincent, and...Jo and Brendan. Wow, I truly did not see that coming. Neither did Jo, judging by the look on her face. She gets a "well done you!" from Brendan for her efforts.
So it's Craig versus Richard in the danceoff. Poor Flavia, to be at risk of the boot so early for the second time in a row. Len is asked what advice he can give them, and he tells them to go out and give it their all, as he always does. Craig and Flavia are up first, and will be repeating their tango. The choreography is still somewhat troublesome, but I think they're improved from last night. Then Richard and Lilia repeat their cha cha cha, which I would say is slightly improved also, though his arm movements are still disappointingly weak.
And so the judges have to make their decision: Craig says the choice is clear and opts to save Craig and Flavia, Alesha says that for fighting spirit, she's going to save Craig and Flavia, and Bruno says that he has to go with Craig and Flavia also, so they're safe and Richard and Lilia are out. Len says that it's small consolation, but he would actually have saved Richard and Lilia. Of course he would, because Richard is a SPORTSMAN whose career has never led to him having to do NAMBY PAMBY things like kissing blokes. Or something - I'm just hypothesising. Richard says it's been an unbelievable experience, and Lilia is excited that now she's free to get those horseriding lessons she was promised.
Join us next week where all 14 remaining celebrities will be performing in a show that will last for 6.3 hours, and Andy Williams will be performing. Hurrah! Oh, and if you haven't yet opted to follow us on Twitter, why not do so now? Thanks for reading, and we'll be back next week...