Monday, 26 October 2009

This week on It Takes Two, we have learnt...

- Craig Kelly has an out-of-body experience when he gets on the dancefloor on Saturday nights. This would actually explain a lot.
- Ian has the most awesome wardrobe of anyone on the show. Maybe if we're really lucky one day he'll let us go and play in it.
- Sometimes when Lilia has a rubbish partner, she will choreograph the routine so they are as far away from the judges as possible. She will not say with whom or on what occasion she has done this in the past, though.
- Phil's wife Dawn wanted him to take part in the show so she could get tickets.
- "We want to get to Blackpool" is reaching terrifying levels of ubiquity.
- The show's costume designers want the boys to show more skin. Obviously, we approve.
- Satin only stretches in one way.
- People on this show like using the word "magnanimous" in unusual contexts.
- There are two words that Brian Fortuna won't accept: "I can't". It's odd, because we would have assumed that the two words he won't accept are in fact "eyebrow tweezers".
- Claudia's dance idol is Lionel Blair.
- Kristina is a big fan of The Beatles, and she thinks 'Imagine' has an "amazing message".
- Sorry, ignore that last one. It wasn't something we learnt, just something we don't care to be reminded of.
- Zöe was in the dance-off the only week on the show that she didn't wear a choker. She will wear one constantly from now on.
- Jade-as-afterthought seems to have spread from the main show to It Takes Two. Bah.
- Some dances are much more difficult to do than other dances. This sort of received wisdom is why Len earns the big bucks.
- Len keeps a jar of pickled walnuts under his desk.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Wood fatigue

Top 11: 24th October 2009

Last Saturday: the show started about three hours later than scheduled and eight million people were forced to watch Jake Humphrey standing in a rainy pitstop against their will! Then, when the show actually started, Alesha awarded Ricky Whittle the first ten of the series and sadly re-ignited the "WHAT DOES SHE KNOW ABOUT DANCING?" debate that had started to die down, Brendan seized the opportunity for a bit of subtle self-promotion by dragging Jo off the dancefloor and leaving Len and Alesha talking to thin air (which still managed to be more responsive than Zöe Lucker), and Zöe and James fell from third place into the dance-off. Oh, and Joe Calzaghe went home, but no one mentions that. This week: the fight continues, and one more couple must leave. Gasp! This is Strictly Come Dancing, live!

Guess what? Yep: our hosts are Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly. Tess will be presenting the show in a pink dress with a black stripe down the side, which was last worn by the Pink Power Ranger to the annual Junior Action Hero Christmas Dinner. Mastodon! Pterodactyl! But enough about Bruce's immediate family.

Tess reminds us that they were on late last week, and there's a gag about the audience complaining about it because Bruce filled the time with a song-and-dance routine. I think they'd have found that infinitely preferable to the Strictly singers, personally, but there you go.

Here are our couples: Zöe and James, Ricky and Erin, Jo and Brendan, Chris and Ola, Natalie and Vincent, Jade (wearing a silver spider web) and Ian, Craig and Flavia, Ricky and Natalie, Phil and Katya, Ali and Brian, and Laila and Anton.

There's a gag about making sure Brendan turned up this week - yep, he's here, good-o - and a reminder that this week's dances are the American smooth and the samba. Tess pretends that the dancers will be doing lifts for the first time this week, like the judges haven't been turning a blind eye to illegal lifts ever since the series started.

Jade and Ian are on first, and Bruce reminds us that Jade pinched Ian's bum this week, but Bruce advised him to behave like a gentleman and turn the other cheek. Oh dear. Anyway, last week Jade's Viennese waltz was wonderful and she got three nines. Ian explains that he's had lots of good results with his sambas in the past, with Denise Lewis and Zoë Ball. Why no love for the works of Penny Lancaster or Jodie Kidd? What? I liked them. Anyway, the samba is not easy for Jade. She has a bit of a meltdown brought on by not being able to get to grips with the dance, and yells rather squeakily at Ian, and sadly, the support she drummed up for herself last week with people who'd previously thought she was a bit of a bitch probably evaporated right there and then. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. Don't worry Jade, I still love you! My one vote of the week goes to you! Anyway, Ian strips for the cameras (woof!) and the next day Jade turns up with a white rose for Ian looking a bit sheepish, and they hug and it's all fine. Jade wants to make Ian proud.

Their samba is danced to 'Independent Women', which is being obliterated by the singers, but every time the "question!" bit comes in, Jade turns to the camera and holds up a finger, and therefore this dance is automatically awesome. [And! Jade spins Ian on the floor at the end! Is GENIUS. - Carrie] Even without that, it's pretty good, but it's a little hesitant, they're on first, and Jade shouted at Ian in their VT, so I think they're in trouble this week. Her dress, as mentioned above, is kind of like a large sparkly doily, and has even less material in it than one of Ola's. It's a good dress, but it must be draughty.

Bruce welcomes Our Fabulous Singers Dave Arch, And His Wonderful Orchestra, and then talks about Craig being in the papers teaching the Duchess of Cornwall how to dance. Len says that the samba is hard to get to grips with, but he thought Jade did well - she had a good control, though she was a little bit flatfooted and lost the bounce. And then Len makes fun of Ian's PVC trousers, which is kind of an open goal. Alesha praises Jade's timing, and says that she's reined herself in and delivered the wow factor once again. Bruno calls her a "fierce exotic Amazon", and tells her she was showing beautiful things, causing Jade to put her hands over her boobs and go "oops!" I seriously don't get why people think she's humourless, I think she's awesome. He warns her that her weight sometimes goes on the back of her foot, but otherwise she's hot. Craig thought the routine was great, and full of attitude - his only criticism is that he would've liked one more revolution from Ian during the final spin on the floor, at which point Ian's all "my bad!"

They rush through to the House of Tesstosterone, where Tess for once asks the question we've all been dying to hear the answer to: "is that a perm, Ian?" Apparently not - this is just what his hair looks like when he doesn't blow-dry it out. Jade says that she found this the most difficult dance of all, but she had so much fun when she went out there, and now she's loving it. Scores: eights all round for a not-too-shabby 32. Ian and Jade hug, and Tess calls it a great start to the show. Man, I wish my stomach was as flat as Jade's. Or that my pecs were as impressive as Ian's. Those two should totally have super-athletic babies. Although probably not right now, as I imagine it's quite hard to dance when you're with child.

Christopher and Mrs Jordan are next. Bruce tells us that Ola is wearing a full-length evening gown for once (we'll see about that), and that Chris was worried because now it means that everyone will be watching him for once. Last week, Chris totally fucked up his jive, and he hopes the American smooth will be his dance because he's running out of options. Things do not go well to start with, but Ola is using tough love to increase his performance. I'd love to be a fly on the wall in the Jordan household sometimes.

Their American smooth is to 'Jimmy Mack', and Ola's "full-length nightgown" has no back to it, so we're not talking a total revolution here. It seems rather slow for an American smooth, and Chris is still pulling various hilarious faces while he dances, but this is a definite improvement from the last few weeks. At the end Ola claps excitedly and grabs his face, so I think maybe he remembered what he was doing this time.

Len explains that the American smooth can be based on any of the ballroom dances, and is not so formal - he thinks it was an improvement on the last couple of weeks, though it was a bit careful because Chris was obviously trying to remember his steps. Alesha non-ironically congratulates him for making it through the routine - Bruno laughs, and she points out that once you've made a mistake, it is hard to get that out of your head, and don't we know it. She does advise Chris to relax now and enjoy it, because he's got through this week now. Bruno calls it "more Ealing than Hollywood", and as a former resident of Ealing, I'm taking that as a shout-out. Hi, Bruno! We know you're out there somewhere! He says that Chris looked like he had a migraine because he was straining so hard, and he needs to balance things out. Chris says that he agrees with Bruno. Craig tells him not to, because he thought it was fantastic. He's worried about Chris's hands, though, because they're always splayed over Ola's back in a rather ugly fashion. He thought it lacked smoothness, but was definitely one of Chris's best dances. Bruno asks Ola if she minds having Chris's hands all over her. Ola's all "heck, no!" I love Ola. [Me too. James might mind, though. - Carrie]

In the House of Tesstosterone, Ola gives him a long-awaited "yeah baby" and announces that they're back to being Ola and Chris again. Scores: sevens from all the judges (with Alesha doing a pretty good impression of Len's infamous "sev-UNN!") for a total of 28. Chris says it's much more enjoyable when he actually remembers the dance.

The third couple to dance are Tuffers and Katya. His Viennese waltz last week got middling reviews, and Katya warns him that they won't get much further if he doesn't pick up his technique. Phil cracks a joke, and Katya totally rolls her eyes. Katya is awesome. This week, Phil's been putting in the hours and working hard, she says - there's been a real change. Phil's not confident about the samba, and thinks they'll definitely need the public vote this week.

Their routine is to the disappointingly predictable 'Daddy Cool' (I'm surprised they didn't give that to Craig Kelly after Alesha's comments last week). It's a bit sloppy - Phil looks more like a gleeful five-year-old running down the street than someone enjoying a carnival in Rio. There's a good bit where they spin around and Phil keeps dipping Katya between his legs, but it doesn't require an awful lot of skill on Phil's part other than the general ability to support her weight, so there's not a lot of dancing skill on display, though it's fun enough to watch, I suppose.

I can't make out the first thing Bruno says for love nor money, but he thinks it looked messy and Phil was flat-footed. He thought it was a repeat of Phil's salsa, more or less, and in week six, that won't cut the mustard. Craig agrees - "all that pumping and grinding has become quite tiresome", he complains. However, he thought that Phil did well to move as quickly around the floor as he did. Len disagrees with both of them - possibly because Phil is a SPORTSMAN - he likes Phil's attitude and the way he comes out full-on. He thinks Phil did the main steps of the samba well and his technique was good. See, it's stuff like this that makes me wonder why on earth people seemed to think the judging process would be ruined by sticking an amateur like Alesha into the mix - even the pros can't agree on whether something was done right or not half the time, so how much harm can she realistically do? Anyway, speaking of Alesha, she thought it wasn't as bad as Phil made it out to be in his VT, but he can't keep relying on his buttocks, "as much as we like a bit of bum action". Then she realises what she's just said, and giggles, as Bruno puts his arm around her and goes "my darling!" So much for this being a family show. Alesha finishes by telling Phil to stop counting out loud because it's really distracting, and that he should count in his head.

Backstage, Tess apologises for Bruno saying "arse" during his comments, but not for the sodomy reference. It's a funny old world. Behind Tuffers and Katya, Ian has changed into a shirt and tie, and the tie has glittery lips printed on it, which I find very distracting. Tess says that as a SPORTSMAN competition must be in Phil's blood, and he says he'd be devastated if it were all over tonight. Scores: six from Craig, seven from Len, and sixes from Alesha and Bruno for a total of 25. Not a great score, but perhaps not unfair.

The next bit is rather awkward. Bruce introduces Zöe and James by saying that she's lost a bit of weight and is looking fantastic. This isn't a lead-up to a joke, it's just because Zöe was in the dance-off last week and he wants to cheer her up. I mean, what better way to rebuild Zöe's fragile confidence than to essentially imply that she's a pathetic mess who's three seconds away from crumbling and needs to be rolled up in cotton wool while she remains on the show? I bet she feels just dandy now. He tries to get the audience to "aww" for her, and basically gets an uncomfortable smattering of applause. Poor Zöe. Even the audience can't be bothered to care about her.

We're reminded of her decent jive last week which earned her third place with the judges, and the horror of the ensuing dance-off. James says that all nine couples below them had more public support. As my boyfriend pointed out at the time, the two above them probably had more public support as well. Zöe was devastated. James says that Zöe's come in and worked hard this week, and is back on form. Zöe says that if she allows being in the dance-off to affect her confidence, that will be what really lets James down.

The make-up people have done something unspeakably horrid to Zöe's hair again that ages her by about 15 years, and her dress makes her look a bit like She-Ra. Their American smooth is to 'My Girl', and it starts well enough, but about 20 seconds in, one of the sleeve-type things that's dangling from Zöe's wrists gets caught on James's arm and comes loose. This doesn't throw them too much to begin with, and as wardrobe malfunctions go, it's not as embarrassingly obvious as Erin's extensions falling out, but towards the end they start to falter a bit, and the final lift, which involves James sticking Zoe on his shoulder and then turning around 180 degrees, which would've been fairly lacklustre even if it had worked, happens about five seconds after the band have finished, and it's all just a bit "is that it?" As they walk over to Bruce, James says that he got his feet caught in Zöe's dress, and Zöe says there was "all sorts going on".

Craig didn't think that affected it so much - he thought it was a simple and effective and well-balanced routine. He liked the sophistication of the routine, though they were late at the end. Len says he's going to ignore the wardrobe malfunctions (of course), and says that if Zöe's in the bottom two this week after that performance, then next week he'll do the lambada with Craig. Is it wrong that I quite want to see that? It's not the best way to encourage a flood of votes for Zöe anyway, if you ask me, though Bruno miming vomiting off to the side of the screen is quite funny. Alesha says it was elegant and graceful, and that's how you come back fighting. Bruno says it was a beautiful dance, beautifully delivered, and that the two of them really connect with each other and he hopes people can see that.

House of Tesstosterone: Tess asks what Zöe wants to say to the people at home, and even after last week Zöe's too classy to beg, basically saying that they're having a great time "and if people could give us their support, that'd be brilliant", almost as an afterthought. Tess mentions them plummeting into the dance-off zone last week and Natalie Cassidy yells "outrage!" from behind them. Heh. Scores: Craig 8, Len 8, Alesha 9 (oh, Alesha) and Bruno 8 for a total of 33.

Craig and Flavia are next, and Craig Kelly may not be able to dance at all, but he certainly wears a figure-hugging blue shirt well. Last week he thought his jive was going well until the judges spoke. He says that being saved by the public was incredible. Craig's brother, Dean Lennox Kelly, comes along to rehearsals to show his support and brings Craig's nephew Joe with him. Dean asks Joe if Craig is doing well in rehearsals, and Joe pulls a face and shakes his head. This is why people in TV warn you never to work with children or animals. Dean explains that their parents met at holiday camp in Blackpool in the '60s, and that's why Craig wants to make it that far. Craig says he's feeling hopeful, as ever.

They're dancing to 'Give It Up' by KC and the Sunshine Band, and as much as an apologist as I have been for Craig Kelly, I really can't find much that's good to say about this - Craig's feet are all over the place, and there's a large section where he basically just stands there and Flavia dances around him, Ola-style.

Alesha is asked if Craig has improved, and she says she'd like to say yes, but the answer is no - she can see he's trying, but his body has a mind of its own, and it was very awkward to watch. But she consoles him that it's a much harder dance than people realise. Bruno calls him "Chris" at first and has to be corrected by Alesha, and says that it looked like Irish dancing at times, and that he's had it, basically. Craig says that Other Craig was forcing his hips in an unnatural way and that his miming ("singing", Flavia corrects) was offputting. Len says, "I admire your pluck" (stop looking up Flavia's dress, Len!) because Craig takes a lot of stick but always comes back trying hard. Bruce tells them they're his favourites.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Flavia hugs Craig, and he says that he always thinks he's doing all right, and then he gets told he's not. Apparently he was singing along to help him get into the music. Last week's scores were not good, but he wants to make it to Blackpool, so how's he done this week: Craig 3, Len 6, Alesha 4, Bruno 5 for a total of 18. Ouch. When was the last time Alesha gave a four? Has she ever given a four?

Ricky and Erin are next. Last week his jive was ham-tastic and Bruno called it a "one-step wonder". His VT is all about how he's lost two stone, and as a result keeps checking himself out in the mirror. Erin wants people to start thinking he's a strong contender. Then stop putting so many gimmicks in your choreography, Erin. That would help.

Their American smooth is to 'Chim Chim Cher-ee', and it's not too bad, but the lifts are very awkward - Erin practically hurls herself onto his shoulder - and his legs seem to be operating entirely independent of his body whenever he's in hold. Still, it's more restrained than usual, which is reassuring. Bruno says he's more impressed with Ricky tonight - there were some surprisingly good turns, but he needs to watch his top line because "it falls to pieces and you disappear, like an owl" - this is of course accompanied by a visual demonstration. Craig thought it most enjoyable, but agrees that Ricky needs to watch his posture, and calls it a prodigious effort. Len says it's refreshing to have an American smooth to a Viennese waltz, and he liked the song - but Ricky does need to watch his shoulders. Alesha says that it was a good mix of personality and technique, and she liked that there was a bit of quickstep in there too.

House of Tesstosterone: Ricky thinks it's all coming together, and asks when they get to meet Ant and Dec. Nobody gets this joke, including me. [Or me. Reference to SMTV? Maybe? I don't know. - Carrie] They got 29 for their paso, but can they top it tonight? Scores: Craig 7, Len 8, Alesha 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 29. It's their best ballroom score yet, Erin is quick to point out.

Half-time leaderboard: Zöe and James are top with 33, right on their heels are Jade and Ian with 32, then Ricky and Erin with 29, then Chris and Ola with 28, then Phil and Katya with 25, then a sizeable gap before Craig and Flavia and their measly 18 points.

Ricky and Natalie are next. Last weekend his Viennese waltz got a 10 from Alesha, which made Ricky very excited. Natalie says that Ricky had trouble grasping the fundamentals of the dance. They do a dance outside the Dog in the Pond in front of all of his work colleagues, which I'm sure was not remotely embarrassing for anyone. Kieron Richardson (aka Ste) says he's "Strictly Come Devastated" because he can't dance like that, and if that's the kind of soundbite he gives, then the campaign to get Kieron Richardson on Strictly 2010 starts here. Hopefully they'll learn to spell his name properly before then. Claire Cooper (Jacqui) thinks he's fantastic too. Ricky says that it was embarrassing, but helped to build his confidence.

Their samba is to 'Good Lovin'' by Grateful Dead, and it's not bad, though it's a little static in the hips. Natalie's choreography continues to be awesome, though. There's a false end about three-quarters of the way through which catches a few people (including me) off guard, but luckily the real end is a bit more satisfying. Ricky hobbles over to the judges. Craig says it wasn't perfect - his timing was out a few times - but it was an electrifying samba. A specific step that I cannot spell needs a lot of work, but overall it was extraordinary. Len thought it was full of rhythm, but it was a shame he went wrong on the running promenades. Alesha wants to see him soften up a bit more, because the samba is a fun and light dance, but she thought his rhythm and hip action were excellent. Bruno calls him "Ricky the sexy beast" and says he was working those hips, but he needs to get it right all the way through. Bruno's kind of cranky tonight, actually.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Tess reveals that Ricky had an injury after rehearsals today, which he wasn't planning to mention. Thanks, Tess! He says it's the hardest routine he's ever had to do, and that it didn't really click until this morning, but he was happy with how it went. Scores: unanimous eights for a total of 32. Natalie is happy, as far as mere mortals can tell.

The other Natalie and Vincent are up next, and she's determined to become Ginger Rogers (drink!) for their American Smooth. She says that last week's ballroom was nerve-wracking, and she thinks she made her dad proud. Her dad rather sweetly calls it "a minute and a half to be savoured". In rehearsals, Natalie is dressed like an art teacher, and declares that this is her favourite dance so far. Vincent makes the obligatory Fred 'n' Ginge reference. They are not doing any lifts, and Natalie says that people will think it's because she's too heavy, whereas in fact it's for the entirely justifiable reason that she is a size 12 and Vincent is tiny (and she's taller than him by several inches, as far as I can tell), so it just wouldn't really work, and I think that's fair enough. Lord knows it's better to accept where your limits lie and find an alternative than to blindly continue against all reason.

They're dancing to 'Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone', and the routine is nicely filled with razzmatazz to the extend that I didn't really notice there weren't any lifts in it. It's actually rather sweet and romantic, and I think my favourite of all the American smooths so far. Alesha says that Natalie's found her dance - she did think that Natalie didn't seem as sparkly as normal, but it was ladylike and brought Hollywood glamour. Bruno thinks she didn't sell it to the extent he knows she can, and basically tells her to stand up straight even though she's got big norks. [Although she is not exactly "endowed" with them; a surgeon did the endowing for her. - Carrie] Craig thought the timing and balance were great, but she needs to not sickle her foot when she points it. "Better than during the week - I was kicking it up like a football," replies Natalie. Len says that her enjoyment was obvious - she started off dubious, but when she got cracking and started smiling, it all worked. Bruce kisses her hand and Natalie overreacts a bit.

Tess asks if Natalie wants to be there next week, and Natalie replies that, no, she doesn't. Kidding! Of course she wants to be here next week, especially since that is planned to be her week for the jive, which is her favourite dance. She really wants to be in the 30s this week. Scores: eight from Len, sevens from everyone else for a total of 29. Natalie says she'll try to get 30 with her jive, then.

Jo and Brendan are our next couple, and Bruce asks: "Will they stay in the rhythm? Will they stay on the beat? And most important of all, will they stay for the judges' comments?" I dunno, I'd think the first two are probably more important, really. Anyway, we relive the CONTROVERSY of last week, and an angry Brendan demonstrates how a kangaroo jumps in the corridor as if this is going to suddenly make him right, when really it just makes everything about a hundred times more ridiculous. Anyway, they've decided to tackle it in the manner that all hate speech should be tackled: by reclaiming it, and so Brendan calls her "Skippy" in rehearsals. Jo has danced to this week's song in many nightclubs, but the routine is proving difficult. She thinks Craig is going to be calling her "some Brazilian native monkey" this week.

Their samba is to 'Superstition', and it opens well enough with Jo swaying on the stage, but it all goes wrong from then on, really: Jo just looks rather lost thoughout, and has to be shoved into place by Brendan repeatedly, and at one point he has to actually keep her upright during the spins. They collide a few times, and she's giving it a good go, but this is not a battle she's ever realistically going to win, and her face suggests that she knows it.

Bruce is holding on to her to stop her from going anywhere this week, even though it's Brendan he wants to be nailing to the floor. Len suggests that Brendan deserves an award for services above and beyond the call of duty, and somehow manages to get cheered for this despite the rest of his commentary basically saying that Jo was terrible and had to be dragged through it. The audience clearly just hear what they want to hear, I think. Alesha says once again that the samba is difficult, and that it was a mess, sadly, and she wants Jo to sort her hands out. Bruno says that she dragged Brendan "into samba hell", and it was damned bad, despite his best efforts. Craig calls it "futile and ineffectual - a complete dance disahhstuh".

In the House of Tesstosterone, and Jo is still smiling. I wonder how someone with such a sunny, goodnatured nature as Jo hasn't become a national treasure in the course of this programme considering that smug, sullen John Sergeant managed it. She admits that she messed up at the beginning. "Hey, at least you started on the right foot!" consoles Brendan. Jo says that she keeps trying because she really wants to get one dance right one week. Bless. Scores: Craig 2, Len 5, Alesha 3, Bruno "4 - bingo!" for a total of 14. I thought that must be the lowest scoring dance for several series, but apparently John Sergeant got 12 for his cha cha cha, so at least that's one undignified millstone she doesn't have to have around her neck. It is, sadly, the lowest score that's ever been given for a samba, though. Brendan patronises Jo somewhat unconvincingly that she was brilliant. Jo says she wants to get one dance right for Brendan. "You do it for you," he says quietly.

Who's next? Why, it's Ali and Brian. And this would be time for yet another tedious joke about them possibly being a couple. Either shit or get off the pot, show. Last week Ali's jive went a bit wrong, and she said she felt sheer terror, and got some slightly overly harsh comments from the judges. She says she's feeling the pressure from getting great comments at the beginning. She wants to feel so comfortable with the routine that she can perform it well. Brian is finally going to simplify his choreography this week. Ali says she can't afford to make any mistakes.

Their American smooth is to 'A Foggy Day (In London Town)', and what I like about this is that Brian's version of simplified choreography differs notably from Anton's, in that it doesn't mean "so pedestrian a child could do it" - yes, it's not quite as demanding as his previous routines, but it's still speedy and showy and has some nifty steps in it, so we're finally getting the best of both worlds. That's the best she's danced since the opening weekend, by far.

Bruno says he's been waiting six weeks for this - "it's magic time!" Bruce tells him he gets more like a Muppet every week. Craig calls it "stylish, classy, absolutely stunning". Len says it's her best dance, and Alesha says it's the best American smooth of the night. Brian then ruins all the goodwill he's built up with me by addressing Alesha and saying "not to suck up, but you look gorgeous this evening". Note to Brian: there is no possible way of saying that that doesn't sound like sucking-up, just fyi. Alesha is rather stunned by this, but thanks him. "He's a smooth American," Ali giggles.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Ali is overcome. She hasn't been top of the leaderboard since week one, and hopes to be back there tonight. Something very odd is happening with the judges tonight, as we cut to them for their scores, and Bruno is staring off to his left somewhere, and Alesha has to put her hand on his head and forcibly point him forwards, prompting Brian to crack up. Scores: Craig 9, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 10 for a total of 37. And I'd be interested to see if all of those people who were fuming that it was too soon for Alesha to be giving a 10 last week are still doing so a whole seven days later when someone else does it. It's the highest score of the series so far, and Tess has goosepimples. [Maybe she should wear some proper clothes, then. - Carrie]

Next are Laila and Anton. Much is made of their horrendous jive last week, and Laila can't believe she's still here. She says she's working so hard, and borrows Craig Kelly's "I just want to make it to Blackpool" line. I wonder what all these people would be saying if this were one of the many series where the entire thing was filmed in Shepherd's Bush? Anton thinks she's a new woman after being saved from the bottom two last week. Apparently Laila dances the samba better than Anton does, and we're supposed to think this is high praise indeed, but come on: we've all seen Anton's Latin before. I'm just surprised it took this long for someone to say it. Laila wants Ricky, Ali and Zöe to know that she's behind them and slowly creeping up. Except for last week when she was quickly plummeting downwards, of course.

With wonderful irony, their samba is soundtracked by 'He's The Greatest Dancer'. Laila is wearing cuffs that aren't attached to anything, like she's in Flashdance or something. Is it just me, or does Laila look uncannily like Karen Hardy from a distance? The routine is more disco than samba, and it's not exactly demanding, but it's definitely a huge improvement from her jive, thank God.

They walk over to Bruce, and Anton excitedly says that she got it right all the way through. Bruce says he was more worried about Anton getting it right. Heh. Craig says it had rhythm and some bounce, but it lacked "wow factor", largely due to the content. Len says if it was a colour, it would be beige - it wasn't colourful enough, and needed some sparklers. He scolds Anton that he should push Laila harder, because she can do it. Alesha thought they captured the fun of the samba, and the good news is it was better than last week, and she thinks Laila's a good fit for this dance. Bruno says that okay is not good enough, and this was a wasted opportunity. He wants to know why they were doing disco arms for eight counts. I think I need to set up a macro for "because Anton can't choreograph Latin".

In the House of Tesstosterone, Laila says she's embraced Latin now. Anton thinks it's a big step for her to have got through the entire thing without a single mistake. [Patronising bastard. - Carrie] Scores: sevens all round for a total of 28. I was expecting less, to be honest. But I guess they have to storyline Laila's comeback arc somehow. Anton thinks it's their best Latin score, though he seems unsure.

That's it, so here's the leaderboard: Ali and Brian are top, Zöe and James are second, Jade and Ian and Ricky and Natalie are tying for third, then Ricky and Erin and Natalie and Vincent are tying for fourth (I know technically it should be fifth, but thanks to Tom Chambers and his army of stans, this is how we're doing it now), then Chris and Ola and Laila and Anton tying for fifth, then Phil and Katya sixth, Craig and Flavia in penultimate place and Jo and Brendan at the bottom.

Recap: Jade and Ian's samba which has already been forgotten by almost everyone, Chris and Ola's sweet American smooth, Phil and Katya's salsa-y samba, Zöe and James's COMEBACK American smooth, whatever it was Craig and Flavia did that was supposed to be a samba, Ricky and Erin's decent American smooth, Ricky and Natalie's lively samba, Natalie and Vincent's classy American smooth, Brendan forcing Jo through a samba, Ali and Brian's lovely American smooth, and finally Laila and Anton's *shrug* disco samba.

To make up for last week's shitshow of a jive, we get a routine from the professionals. I wonder if Aliona will be asked back next year. I rather feel for poor Matthew getting yet another new partner if she isn't. I'm inclined to say she deserves another shot, since her dancing in the pro routines has been pretty good, and we don't officially know if it was her choreography or Rav's general lumpenness that was the problem there, although I'm still kind of baffled by that quickstep she devised. Katya goes kind of nuts during hers and Brendan's section, which is rather funny.

After that, we're back in the House of Tesstosterone, where Ali is thrilled to be top of the leaderboard - Brian made her feel like a princess. Once again we're expected to feel that it is a total catastrophe for Ricky Whittle to not be top of the leaderboard - he's JOINT THIRD, for fuck's sake. Add to that the fact that he's a young, attractive man and I think it's safe to say he's not in any danger. Ricky says Ali being top was well-deserved, anyway. Jo says that she can definitely bounce back. Ricky Groves still hasn't reached 30, and has the rumba next week, so he probably won't be doing it then either, because the rumba, as we all know, is HARD FOR A MALE CELEBRITY. Craig hopes his Blackpool dream isn't slipping away. Zöe didn't like being in the dance-off. This thrilling insight leads us into the obligatory It Takes Two trailer.

Time to check back in with the judges. Bruno is asked what was so good about Ali and Brian's American smooth. He replies that it was the first time a dance has given him goosebumps, and that this is the standard everyone should be aiming for. Craig is asked what Jo Wood needs to do to improve. Craig says she needs to listen to the music, connect to Brendan a bit more, and strengthen her core. Len and Alesha are apparently gagged with orders of silence this week.

Now Michael Malitowski and Joanna Leunis are performing a special rumba for us. They're the current world Latin champions, by the way. So it says here, anyway. The intro VT we get for them is very Masterchef. Rumba DOESN'T get better than this! Anyway, I can tell you right now that if this were a normal routine on this show, Len would mark it down several points for ALL THAT MUCKIN ABAHHT that happens at the start. I mean, I rather enjoyed it, but you just know that that sort of choreography would not've passed muster with him under any other circumstances. As always, it's kind of hard to describe the visiting pro routines, but there are definitely some manoeuvres in here which seem to defy all known laws of physics, so colour me impressed.

From there we return to the House of Tesstosterone, where everyone's feeling rather inadequate. Chris aims to live up to that routine with his cha cha cha next week. Laila feels she's improving in her Latin, but she's getting ballroom withdrawal symptoms. Jade says it means a lot to still be here, but the lines have closed by now, so it's far too late to be reminding people she exists, TESS.

This week's musical guest is Harry Connick Jr, performing 'The Way You Look Tonight'. Incidentally, my flatmate's friend walked in halfway through this performance and thought it was Michael Bublé, who's actually on The X Factor this week, so if you don't like MOR jazz, then you are SOL this week. I mean, there's a nice routine from Anton and Erin in the middle of it, but that's only just worth the price of admission.

It's still not time for the results - we need a filler VT first. Phil's wife says he's been bitten by the Strictly bug. Jade's sister Charlotte is wowed by her sister in her dresses. Ali's mum Paula wanted to hug her after the jive. Ricky Whittle's dad Harry (who calls him "Richard", hee) is in awe. Chris's parents say that he wants to do whatever he does, the best. Ricky G's nan Hilda is amusingly awesome, if not quite up there with Alesha's nan Clem. Natalie's dad thinks her mum would be very proud. Laila's auntie was very proud of her when she topped the leaderboard. Jo's brother Vinnie says that it's made a horrible turn of events much easier to swallow for her. Craig's wife wants him to MAKE IT TO BLACKPOOL. Zöe's mum and dad say she'd be DEVASTATED if she went out at this stage.

Right, finally: results time. In no particular order, the following couples will definitely be back next week: Craig and Flavia (at which Flavia does an actual double-take, which is hilarious), Ali and Brian, Chris and Ola, Phil and Katya, Laila and Anton, Natalie and Vincent, Ricky and Erin, Zöe and James. That leaves us with three couples: Jade and Ian, Jo and Brendan, and Ricky and Natalie, and why in the world anyone thought this was a remotely suspenseful moment is beyond me, because of course Ricky and Natalie are safe. Jade's days were numbered the second that VT showed her shouting at Ian, and Jo's luck had to run out sometime.

So we're here with another foregone conclusion of a dance-off. Jade and Ian go first, and their samba is much livelier the second time around, although the singers make even more of a mess of the song than they did the first time. There's a slight fumble going into the samba roll, but by and large, this is a much stronger performance than the first one. If it had been performed at this level the first time, they might not have even been here, but then, that VT coupled with being on first and my own sneaking suspicion that Jade doesn't have much of a fanbase suggests that they could've come out and delivered a world-class routine and still been in the dance-off. Jo and Brendan reprise their salsa, and they both know this is it for them, so they have fun with it - Brendan picks Jo up and whirls her around instead of the two of them spinning together. It is a better performance than first time, possibly because of the freedom of knowing that however well they do, they're totally not going to get saved. It's still a very sloppy routine, but as ways to go out go, it's not too bad. It ends, and Jo walks over to Bruce and Tess. "Don't make up our minds, Jo!" shouts Bruce, as she scuttles over to the middle of the floor.

The judges make their decisions: Craig doesn't even bother to explain why, and just saves Jade and Ian. Alesha says that Jo's been a fantastic sport, but saves Jade and Ian. Bruno laughs that it's not difficult (a bit rude) and saves Jade and Ian. Jo cackles that she's surprised she lasted this long, and says she's enjoyed every second. She reveals that she's going to make a cameo appearance doing one dance on Brendan's tour. They go to do their last dance, and Bruce realises he hasn't asked Len for his vote, which is hardly surprising, because come on: even Len's not that mad. I'm sad to see Jo go, but I think this was pretty much her time, and as she said, she lasted longer than most of us expected. I probably won't remember her for her dancing, but I shall remember her for being a perfect example to the John Sergeants of this world of how to handle being the show's human punchline with class and good humour.

Next week, the Bee Gees! That'll get the kids tuning in.

Monday, 19 October 2009

This week on It Takes Two, we have learnt...

- Brendan is okay with people not liking him.
- EVERYBODY has got a bloody cold.
- Ola now calls Chris "Christopher" and he calls her "Mrs Jordan". This is tough love, apparently.
- James told Zöe backstage after their first performance on Saturday that "you'll never have to do the jive again". So it's all his fault.
- Claudia arm-wrestled Bonnie Tyler for Laila's hairy jive costume. Why?
- The construction of a Strictly dance costume is always based either on a leotard or a bra and pants. AND THAT'S JUST THE BOYS. (Rimshot.)
- Tuffers is not good at the samba because he lives in Surrey.
- Craig has never given anyone a 10 for doing an American Smooth.
- Natalie Lowe respects Len's opinion. Well, somebody has to.
- Dancers will be punished for not obeying the rules of the American Smooth. Unless Bruno decides otherwise. (Okay, fine, we already knew that, but in the words of the White Stripes, it bears repeating.)
- There are some deeply odd music choices this week.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

The Calzagony of defeat

Top 12: 17th October 2009

Before anyone asks, no I certainly am not going to recap the 15 minutes' worth of entirely pointless F1 overrun we were subjected to in place of Strictly last night. Indeed, I think I made my feelings perfectly clear at the time. Quite why we had to sit there and watch the Formula 1 qualifying NOT HAPPEN when we could've been watching Strictly instead is a matter probably only known to BBC1's duty playout editor last night, but it did seem like a very odd decision. Thank heaven for iPlayer, that's all I can say, because my recording of the show was royally buggered.

So, last weekend, the couples shocked and surprised. Tonight, it'll be the judges doing that, and for all the wrong reasons. Expect rage. Titles!

As always, we have Bruce and we have Tess. Daly Dresswatch: Quality Street Coconut Éclair. A disaster. Sorry Tess. Bruce apologises for the delay (not your fault, Bruce) and welcomes us to the show. There's a gag about Bruce going clubbing with Amy Winehouse after last week's show. Please, like the reanimated corpse of Amy wasn't wheeled back into the freezer the second Dionne Bromfield finished singing.

Here are our couples, a great many of whom seem to be auditioning for other roles tonight judging from their attire: Zöe (dressed as someone playing the dual roles of Velma Von Tussle and Roxie Hart in a low-budget amateur musical theatre cabaret) and James, Ricky G (as Vince Fontaine) and Erin, Jo and Brendan, Chris (with pink sparkly braces!) [I knew you'd like them! - Carrie] and Ola, Natalie and Vincent, Jade (Aurora in Kiss of the Spider Woman) and Ian, Craig and Flavia, Ricky and Natalie, Phil and Katya, Ali (Storm in X-Men: The Musical) and Brian, Joe and Kristina, and Laila (Sesame Street's Snuffleupagus, making a one-off cameo in Avenue Q) and Anton.

Tonight's dances are the jive and the Viennese waltz - hooray, two of my favourite dances! It's just a shame that they happen to have fallen into one of the most infuriating and incomprehensible editions of this programme I can ever remember. Tess explains the rules for about the gazillionth time, and then it's time for Ricky and Erin, having to perform at the beginning of the show for once. Bruce makes a joke about all the people with the same or similar names in this series (Joe/Jo, Natalie and Natalie, Ricky and Ricky), which leads him to a reprise of the old "you don't get anything for a pair, not in this game" meme.

Ricky was ill last week, but to his credit, he didn't use it as an excuse for anything. That said, he was disappointed with his foxtrot last week. This week he's jiving, and he feels more confidence. It's a show-offy dance, he thinks, so it's more in his wheelhouse. Erin says it's the return of the Ricky that people want to see. Actually, I kind of liked the Ricky we saw last week. Ricky jeopardises his man-of-the-people vote by talking about having a seventh gear rather than a sixth one - my beloved car Veronica only has five, so clearly Ricky has LOST THE COMMON TOUCH.

I feel it necessary to describe Ricky's outfit as best I can - he's wearing a black jacket with orange sequins on it that make a sort of cityscape picture (the black of his jacket forming the outline of buildings, if you follow), with an orange tie, and orange socks, and an orange comb in his pocket. Not that this will be a routine of gimmickry, you understand. Ricky comes out, combs his hair and vamps about "spreading a lot of jam" before yelling at the band to "hit it" (and I'm sure most of us would rather they didn't, though if the alternative is the Mysterious X Factor Disembodied Finger Sliding Up The Fader, perhaps it's a tough call). They're dancing to 'Boy From New York City'. It's not a great routine, to be honest - there's an awful lot of hopping up and down on his right leg, which makes the whole thing feel rather stilted. The business with the comb proves a bad idea when Ricky struggles to retrieve it from his inside pocket midway through. It's not awful, by any means, but I didn't really enjoy it, and I quite like Ricky.

Bruce welcomes the band, of course, and reminds us that we have judges. Bruce talks about Alesha having been on the Jonathan Ross show last night, but how she wasn't his first choice: he wanted Ricky Whittle, but couldn't pronounce his name. Wah-wah-waaaah. He doesn't acknowledge that Saint Arlene was on Have I Got News For You, and they used the opportunity to do a gag about Alesha writing her autobiography, despite the fact that she isn't. Fact-checking fail. Len is asked what he looks for in the jive, and Len says "kicks, flicks and tricks", and wonders if Ricky has repetitive strain injury, because he's not seen
so many flicks from the left leg in all his life. It wasn't a bad job, but it wasn't really a jive. However, he thinks Ricky embraced the entertainment and the fun of the dance. Alesha enjoyed the use of the comb, which could've been a problem because "it could have fallen down or anything, couldn't it?" Oh Alesha. She thought it could've been sharper, but she enjoyed the personality. Bruno calls it a "one-step wonder" and thought it was more like a can-can than a jive - "not good", is his general verdict. Ricky wonders who took all the jam out of Bruno's doughnut, and Bruno assures us that there's "plenty of jam there". I'm sure I speak for all of us here when I say: ew. Craig says that if we didn't know what a kick-ball-change was before, we do now - and he didn't even point his feet properly. It was lively and exuberant, but repetitive. Bruce shows us all what a kick-ball-change is, even though Ricky just showed us all a gazillion times.

In the House of Tesstosterone, we learn that that song was in fact Ricky's favourite song. His gran is in the audience tonight, and she is very pleased, though we are denied any opportunity to see if she is as awesome as either of Alesha's nans. [I think we can safely assume that she's not. - Carrie] Then Tess talks about Ricky having lost two stone - Erin says that Ricky has a six pack now, and Tess replies, "I can feel it, it's hard." This prompts the audience (and Jo Wood) to snigger considerably. Scores: Craig 6, Len 7, Alesha 7, Bruno 5 for a total of 25. Ricky is at least pleased that it's over half marks. They will be doing an American Smooth next week if they get through, Tess tells us.

Next up are Jade and Ian. There follows one of the few gags from tonight that genuinely made me laugh, so I'll record it here: Bruce told Jade that he was going to do a joke about how fast she is, Jade replied that he already did that before, and Bruce said, "I know, it's a running joke." Ba-dum-tish! Last week Jade was cautioned to rein in her dancing because it gets messy at times, and Jade's parents were in the audience, and Jade notes with some irony that her mum can't get over how she's now a beautiful woman. My mum, who was watching the show with me, snorted at this and took it as a sign of Jade's arrogance. Poor Jade - I think her sense of humour is destined to be lost on some people. Jade talks about being on a "journey" of discovery - and sadly, she doesn't mean it in a piss-taking way like she did last week. But she's learning to be emotional, and she hopes it'll be all right on the night.

Their Viennese waltz is to 'It's A Man's, Man's, Man's World' and honestly, it's glorious. I guarantee you, whatever else happens this year, this will be in my top three dances of the series because the choreography is exquisite and the dancing and storytelling are wonderful and even the band are on form. I could honestly watch that dance on a constant loop. Jade tweaks Ian's rear, and Bruce asks what just happened - "did you pinch him?" Ian replies primly, "Yes, she did. On the bottom." I heart Ian. Len says that he's looking for lovely musical lilts, good posture and a mix of natural and reverse turns, perhaps a pivot and the odd fleckerl - everything he saw in Jade's routine. Alesha tells Jade the dance suits her - lovely movement, very graceful, and great body contact. She thinks that Jade captured the spirit of the dance in a very natural way - that while actresses may act it, with Jade it comes from within. Bruno calls it "gorgeous, elegant, and smooth" and then runs off into a terrifying cul-de-sac of a simile that I won't transcribe. Craig thought there was a little bit too much rise and fall, but only marginally, but he thought Jade kept her frame throughout and the whole thing was - and then there's a brilliant bit where Craig says "mag-" and Bruce finishes "magnificent" for him even though I think Craig actually said "magnanimous", which is an odd but perhaps not entirely incorrect way to describe the dance.

Jade and Ian head to the House of Tesstosterone, where Jade said it was really emotional out there and she had to hold back the tears, which doesn't normally happen. Ian says that Jade is very hard on herself and unforgiving when she makes a mistake. Tess asks if they think they can be top of the leaderboard, and after last week, Jade and Ian are somewhat reluctant to be drawn one way or the other. Scores: eight from Craig and nines from everyone else for a total of 35. It's the joint-highest score of the series, which earns Jade a round of applause backstage. She is, understandably, quite chuffed.

On third are Ali and Brian. Bruce says that in Hollyoaks Ali played a teacher who was fired for having an affair with a student, and wonders how anyone could get involved with someone who's teaching them. The camera cuts back to Ali and Brian, the former looking embarrassed and the latter looking somewhat stern. Just remember this little gag for when the time comes for the judges to comment on Jo's Viennese waltz, if you'd be so kind. The VT says that Ali's salsa wasn't tasty last week, which is kind of a crock of shit. Ali says that going from first to second to third on the leaderboard is a worrying trend. Brian takes her out for an "all-American experience" to get in character for the jive, and obviously the show laps up the opportunity to get lots of ZOMG IN-SHOW ROMANCE footage from the occasion, as they go out bowling and drink milkshakes. The training doesn't go well to start with, and Ali admits that the training has been difficult this week, but she thinks Brian's been great and she doesn't want to let him down.

They're dancing to 'Tutti Frutti', and for some impenetrable reason the choreography involves Brian skidding across the floor, landing in Rachel Stevens' lap, and fondling her. Still, at least he gets something resembling a human emotion out of her as a result, so Vincent will probably collar him backstage later to ask how he managed that. As for the rest of the routine, it's a difficult one to judge. Ali's still clearly one of this year's better dancers, but this routine doesn't go well for her. She seems to lose herself a few times (and not in the good way), and the bit where Brian flings her between his legs is just ugly - I thought at first she went crashing into the steps, but on rewatching, I don't think she does, she just lands rather awkwardly. It's almost certain to be tonight's best jive, but it's definitely lacking.

Alesha tells Ali that she does the turns superbly, and that Brian's been very ambitious with the choreography, but she thinks sometimes Ali is struggling to keep up with it. She thinks Ali still needs to relax. Bruno is frustrated, because Ali still hasn't blown his mind (SOMEBODY must have, though, surely?) - she would get some parts right but not others, and he doesn't know why she can't deliver. Ali looks quite upset. Craig says that her balance went, and she lost the choreography halfway through - it was a bit of a mess, but she has so much promise, even if she isn't delivering. Len says she must be very upset, because this was a "real class jive", but there were some major slip-ups. He suggests a "less is more" approach for next week that will show Ali's skills off properly. That actually seems like a very good idea. From Len, of all people.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Ali admits that she slipped and lost her balance, and then she doesn't know what happened. Brian tells her she should be proud of herself for managing to get back on the music having gone off. Ali just hopes she can stay in and come back next week, because "I've got more in me", and I'll leave it to the ever-classy Bruce to make a Brian Fortuna joke here. Scores: Craig 6, Len 7, Alesha 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 29. Wow, Bruno's mark really didn't agree with his comments. It's Ali's lowest score to date, and a tearful Ali says she has to go and find her fight. Brian tells her she's fabulous, and Tess repeats for an apparently suddenly hard of hearing Ali that "your boy says you're fabulous" and someone goes "oooo-oooo!" like everyone in the room is 11 years old. What the fuck?

Back to Bruce, who isn't ready. Jo and Brendan are next, with their Viennese waltz. Last week I thought her foxtrot was a holy mess, but the judges seemed to see an improvement, even though she was still bottom of the leaderboard. Backstage, Amy Winehouse's puppet master says that "Amy" wants Jo to win. Jo says that she wants to do her friends proud. Jo struggles with her Viennese waltz in rehearsals and gets upset with herself, so she arranges a visit from a confidence coach. Jo's home looks gorgeous, by the way. Jo apparently comes away from the whole thing with a jot of self-belief, which is an improvement.

I actually think her Viennese waltz (to Ray Lamontagne's 'Trouble') is decent - there are some obvious issues with the footwork, but it's the first time in ages (possibly ever) that I've actually seen her dance as opposed to being dragged around the floor by Brendan, and she's actually doing reasonably well. She's never going to be a natural dancer, but unlike last week, I can definitely see improvement here. Brendan pats her on the shoulder as they finish.

Bruno says that Jo's vulnerability is appealing, but the dance was "too skippy", like a grasshopper. Craig says, "I don't know about a grasshopper, more like a bush kangaroo", and suddenly all hell breaks loose. Bruno laughs uproariously while everyone else makes noises/faces of disapproval. Brendan scowls and leads Jo off the dancefloor in the general direction of the House of Tesstosterone, and Bruce suddenly ignites, telling Craig he's going too far and that "you don't have to get personal, Craig." Craig argues that it wasn't, Bruce insists it was, and scolds him like a naughty child. And seriously, people: before 4,000 idiots complain to Ofcom - it was a Skippy the Bush Kangaroo joke. Bruno said she was skippy like a grasshopper, and Craig said she was skippy like a bush kangaroo. That's not a personal insult, it's an impartial comment about her dancing with a joke on the side. It is not nearly as personal as Bruce's comments about Ali and Brian earlier, or indeed Bruce's joke about Jo's marriage last week. The whole thing is ridiculous, and I blame Brendan for making such a meal of it when Jo, bless her heart, seemed to take the comment with good humour. Anyway, Bruce cuts Craig off and asks Len to comment. Len says that he liked that it was a difficult routine and while there were faults, it was Jo's best dance to date. "It was her best dance, that's why I talked about it being personal," snips Bruce, pointing his cue cards at Craig. And he can say that all he wants, it still doesn't change the fact that it wasn't a personal comment. Christ on a water biscuit - this from the man who defended Anton. Anyway, Alesha at this point isn't quite sure whether she would be facing forward or yelling her comments towards the House of Tesstosterone, but she says that the Viennese waltz is a hard dance because it makes you dizzy, but she thinks Jo coped well and it was her best dance to date.

Tess, colossal moron that she is, opens by saying, "Craig said you looked like a bush kangaroo, is that correct?" No, Tess, it isn't. Stop making things worse. Brendan calls Craig ignorant, and says that it was probably Jo's best performance. He insists there is no need for "bush kangaroo". "Bush kangaroo?" wails Jo despondently, having heard those two words more times tonight than she ever needed to thanks to the idiotic interference of Brendan and Bruce. Honestly, I admire Jo for the amount of stick she's taken on this show, and for the good grace she has always displayed in the face of it. Since she's learning so much from Brendan, perhaps he could learn a thing or two from her. Anyway, scores: Craig 5, Len 7, Alesha 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 23 - Jo's highest score to date. Jo is pleased in a muted sort of way.

Zöe and James are next. James is a particularly luminous shade of orange. They were pleased with their score last week - though Zöe thinks it will take a miracle for her to get a 10. Zöe is unimpressed at James's plans to whirl her around the floor by an arm and a leg. She brings her cute daughter into rehearsals, and feels a bit awkward dancing sexily in front of the littl'un. She hopes all the one-year-olds across the country will be saying "vote Zöe and James". Given that the speech of most children of that age is not clear at the best of times, perhaps that's where it all went wrong for her. Oops, spoilers.

Zöe's jive is to 'Tainted Love', and it looked awesome on It Takes Two on Friday, but it lacks a little something this time around. It's still a creditable performance though, and given the general poor quality of tonight's jives, that is indeed something to be treasured. It just doesn't feel very memorable, I suppose. Zöe is worried that one of her boobs came out, but it seems she is safe. Craig tells her she is fabulous to watch - her kicks and flicks were a bit stiff, but it was a very respectable jive. Len says it was clean, neat and precise, but he thinks it lacked a bit of freedom. Alesha says that Zöe never disappoints and once again she was a joy to watch. Bruno tells Zöe she always delivers, but her kicks and flicks needed work. "Is the footballer's wife heading for an early bath? I don't think so," says Bruce, coincidentally at the same time that Fate's perusing the ice-cream freezer of his local Tesco Express and thinking, "Oooh, I feel tempted."

In the House of Tesstosterone, Zöe says this was the toughest week yet, but she really enjoyed herself - even though she thought she was "exposing [her]self" at one point. James says that it is HARD FOR A LADY to do jive. James clearly didn't get that memo Len issued. Scores: seven from Craig, eights from Len and Alesha, and seven from Bruno, for a total of 30.

Ricky and Natalie are next. It is played as a colossal tragedy that Ricky was only JOINT THIRD HORRA with the judges last week, but seriously. Natalie says that Ricky won't ever want to come third again because she's pushing him very hard. Ricky says it's a very intense and physical dance. Ricky wipes his face with his vest AGAIN. We know you have well-developed abdominals, Ricky. We don't need to see them quite so fucking often. [Well, he knew he wouldn't get the chance to show them off wearing tails. Cynical vote-grabbing. - Carrie]

They begin by circling each other for about five seconds and then they take hold for what is a very crisp, clean and impeccably executed Viennese waltz. On a personal level, I preferred Jade and Ian's, but that aside, this is a great performance. Alesha says Ricky definitely did not disappoint this week, and she thought this was like watching a professional couple - his best dance yet. Bruno says Ricky was riding on a crest of a wave, and that this was a leading man's performance. Craig says he danced with ease and confidence, though he has a lazy right foot. "You've got a lazy eye!" retorts Bruno, randomly. Len thought the start was never going to end - you've guessed it, it was "getting on [his] wick". I'm just surprised we didn't get an "ALL THAT MUCKING ABAHHHHT" for a full line of Len Bingo. Anyway, all was forgiven when they took hold, though he thinks Ricky occasionally misplaced his head, or something.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Ricky says they just wanted to come back with a bang, but it's nice to know the judges expect a good performance from him. Scores: Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha 10, Bruno 9 for a total of 36. And I'm sure there will be Wankarama on the internet for Alesha giving Ricky a 10 so early on, but I don't really have a problem with it. Let's face it: Ricky is good. I'd perhaps even go as far as to say gifted, and the judges here are clearly having the same problem that the Dancing On Ice judges had last year with Ray Quinn, in that he's so clearly in a league ahead of his competitors technically that they're really having to look hard for reasons not to give him a perfect score. By the looks of things, Alesha had had enough of that and decided to give him a 10. Perhaps it does leave her with a problem of where she goes from here if next week's dance is even better, but that's Alesha's concern, not ours. And to those who think it's far too early to be handing out tens, and that this is all just another sign of Alesha's unsuitability for judging, Bruno gave Louisa Lytton a 10 for her jive in week three of series four. And as much as Louisa's jive is one of my all-time favourite routines, it wasn't nearly as technically polished as Ricky's Viennese waltz was. That's not to say I necessarily think it deserved a 10, just that I don't have a problem with Alesha awarding it one.

Craig and Flavia are next. He says that he thought he was smiling throughout his foxtrot last week, but watching it back, he realised he wasn't. Matt Di Angelo advises Craig to "give it some welly" this week. Flavia says that Craig is loving every second of learning to dance, and Craig says he can't do anything but smile when he's jiving. He hopes it can be the dance that turns people's opinions of him around, and he desperately wants to make it to Blackpool. Yeah, good luck with that.

Okay, so this isn't a good jive, and there's a lot wrong with his footwork, but I actually think this is the best dance Craig has done - he's committing to it, and although like Jo Wood he's never going to be a natural-looking dancer, I think this is a real step up for him. There's some conviction in the performance, and while the improvement is perhaps not huge, I think it's definitely there. Bruno tells Craig he definitely tried hard, but unfortunately most of his steps were off. "You made me feel anxious and slightly uncomfortable," he says, and Lord knows what it must take to make Bruno feel that way. Judge Craig appreciated the energy, but it was ploddy and spasmodic, and Celebrity Craig needs to sort out the points in his kicks, to which Celebrity Craig responds that he did, or at least that he tried, and there must have been some point to his kicking. Heh. I like his dry sense of humour, though I'm sure that, much like Jade's, there is no room for it on this show. Len asks Flavia if her outfit was meant to distract from Craig's dancing - he thinks it was a good job, but he wants to see improvement and thinks Craig needs to work harder. Alesha says that she can see he's trying, but he just reminds her of a dad dancing at a disco, and it's not good enough for this stage of the show. Craig hopes to at least be a cool funky dad. Alesha says it's endearing, but not good enough.

Backstage, Craig says he is enjoying himself, and is a cool funky dad. Scores: Craig 4, Len 6, Alesha 5, Bruno 5 for a total of 20. That's Craig's lowest score to date. Blackpool is three weeks away. I really don't see it happening.

Leaderboard: Ricky and Natalie in first place, Jade and Ian behind them, then Zöe and James, then Ali and Brian, then Ricky and Erin, then Jo and Brendan and poor Craig and Flavia at the bottom.

Who's next? Why, it's Joe and Kristina. Joe is pleased that the public like him, even if the judges don't. We get vox pops from Wales, where people like him because he is Welsh. Joe says he's not a quitter, and he doesn't want to be bottom of the leaderboard again.

Their jive begins with Joe apparently trying to play Kristina's leg like a double bass, which works about as well as Gary Rhodes trying to play Karen's back like a piano last year. Joe's attempt at jiving is woeful - at best I can say he's put a bit more personality in it this week, but he still looks incredibly awkward. Craig thinks he's got more personality, indeed, and has relaxed, but he thinks it's flat-footed and waddly, though overall "a vast improvement". Seriously? Len says he can see development as a dancer, and again I say: buh? Alesha says she wants to see more bounce in his step, but she always enjoys Kristina's routines and she thought they brought lots of fun. Bruno says we all know Joe is not a natural dancer, but for the first time this week he was on time a few times, so there is hope. At this point, you just know they're going to give it more points than Craig Kelly got, and in fairness both were fairly pisspoor, but Joe's still so graceless in his movement, so the improvement appears negligible to me, but what do I know? I haven't been given a set of paddles numbered 1-10 with which to register my opinion. In the House of Tesstosterone, Joe thanks the voters for keeping him in - "as long as they think I'm good enough, then I am". That's sweet. Scores: Craig 4, Len 6, Alesha 6, Bruno 5 for a score of 21. And honestly, realistically I know Craig's jive wasn't good, but it wasn't as much of a crashing mess as Joe's. And now I have to blame Alesha for being the reason Joe ended up with one point more than Craig, and I don't like that at all. Joe and Kristina are thrilled not to be bottom of the leaderboard.

Natalie and Vincent are next. Natalie says she's conquered her nerves, but every week she wonders if Monday will come and she'll be sat at home watching Cash In The Attic. Natalie plans to be ladylike this week, though Vincent thinks she is "not an elegant person". She says she'll work really hard, and all she wants is for her dad - who'll be in the audience - to think that she's a lady. I would question the footwork in her Viennese waltz as she appears to be listing to her left frequently and not putting her right foot down properly, but in general, it's nicely done. Len says that he loves her enthusiasm - the steps were all there, but it was a little bit hoppy, so he's going to christen her "Hopalong Cassidy". Bruce thinks that is "sweet", though surely it is a PERSONAL INSULT? I don't get how Bruce's mind works, I really don't. Alesha says it's great to see another side to Natalie - "you was like a lady". That really isn't BBC1 primetime grammar, Alesha. [Or ladylike. - Carrie] She warns Natalie that she's picking up her feet too much which is making her skippy, and to watch that for her next ballroom. Bruno agrees that it's too skippy. Craig says it wasn't devoid of lumps and bumps, but she's picking one leg up too much in her pivots, but he thinks she achieved what she set out to achieve.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Natalie says she's enjoyed it, and she hopes to be back next week to do her American Smooth because she's enjoying her ballroom. Scores: sevens from all except Bruno, who gives six, for a total of 27.

Time for Laila and Anton, whose jive has already reached infamy during the week because we saw the rehearsal footage and saw what a mess it was. And if you're wondering if this is one of those common occurrences where everything goes horribly until Wednesday when suddenly it all comes together, the short answer is: no. No, it is not. Last week they were top of the leaderboard, and jubilant. Laila has been dreading the jive, she admits, and Anton says that she has trouble moving fast. Laila asks if she's been "the worst one", and the answer to anyone who's been paying attention is clearly not, though Anton claims that she is indeed the worst, and that "even Esther Rantzen" did it better. They are worried that they may go from top to bottom in the space of a week.

Laila's dress, with all the fringing, is hairier than Anton's back chest, and yes, the performance is terrible. Laila is trying, but it's clear she doesn't have a clue what she's doing - and what's worse, is that even Anton doesn't look like he knows what he's doing either. At least in the above examples with Jan and Patsy it looked like he was putting some effort in, but here it rather looks like he's going to let Laila's struggles with the dance take the fall for the fact that his Latin choreography is shit, which isn't very sporting of him.

Alesha tells Laila that based on that performance, her Latin needs more work if she's going to be a contender, and she looked like "a drunken ragdoll", though she likes the outfit. If you say so, Alesha. Bruno's comment is the best of the night: "Did you rehearse on Twitter? All short outbursts that made no sense." Ha! Craig thinks the fringing was masking a lot of the flaws. "Should've had a lot more fringing," interjects Anton, unnecessarily. Len says that Laila's ballroom is better than her Latin, but he thinks the problem is mental - she convinced herself it would be bad, so she needs to "buck [her]self up, get [her] bum in gear, and do proper Latin. Come on!" I don't know why Jo bothered hiring a professional confidence expert when she could've got such sterling advice from Len for free.

Backstage, Laila says she doesn't know what happened, it just went - "wrong, is the traditional word for it," adds Anton. Oh, shut up, Beaky. He says that she does it well in rehearsals (shame he didn't say that at any point in her VT, then perhaps she might not have had such a confidence problem), especially on Fridays, and then gets mad with Tess and Laila for talking over him. Tit. Scores: Craig 5, Len 7 (WHAT?), Alesha 5, Bruno 5 for a total of 22. Laila's lowest score yet, but still better than Craig Kelly's, though I think I've made my point on that front by now. Next week they're due to samba, and Anton promises "a bit of chest action" and suggests Laila pops her frock on back to front.

Tuffers and Katya are next, and there's an amazing gag about how much Phil looks like Len when he smiles:

It's the "7" paddle that makes it art.

So, last week Bruno was impressed at how well Phil worked his bum. So were Matt Dawson and Sue Barker, but they felt a bit uncomfortable about it. Katya says it's been a tough week because Phil can be lazy sometimes, and they fought when Katya threw a pen at him, but they've kissed and made up. He is endeavouring to be a romantic Tuffers rather than a cheeky chappy this week. I rather dig Phil's silver-toned tails that he's wearing, and his Viennese waltz isn't too bad either. His footwork looks a bit sluggish at times, but on the whole, I'm impressed. The Superman pose and shit-eating grin at the end rather ruin the effect of what was a lovely routine, though. Bruno was impressed, apart from a stumble at the end - though Katya maintains it was supposed to be there. Craig says it was too much up on his toes, and would've liked to see more of the line extended, but he thought Phil did a great job. "Think balls, cricket balls - you polish them!" Len advises. Essentially, Phil needs to polish the routine more. "Think of your balls and we'll be there," he finishes. Alesha thinks they're adorable, and Phil holds his posture well, but she thinks that Phil should take Len's advice and just develop a bit of finesse because he's improving each week.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Phil talks about polishing his balls. Scores: Craig 6, Len 7, Alesha 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27. Katya is not happy with the score - she thinks Phil did a great job, though.

Our last couple tonight are Chris and Ola. There's a joke about Ola's dresses, which she chuckles about backstage. I like that she has an awareness of her own ridiculousness. Ola thinks they broke through last week, and Chris says that while the marks weren't brilliant, they didn't matter because he managed to get out there and perform it when he didn't think he could. Chris is staying with his parents at the moment because he's waiting to buy a new house, and his mum is getting stuck with his laundry because Strictly and work have taken up his entire life. Chris's jive starts with air guitar and a knee-slide - not terribly auspicious. He's pulling some very odd faces throughout, rather like Popeye, but it's a very energetic routine and I'm quite impressed with his kicks. His spare arm looks a bit lost whenever he's holding onto Ola, though. It ends with air guitar (not good) and Chris sticking his face right into the camera (kind of fun).

Craig thinks "one more week's rehearsal would've been a little bit better", and gets heckled by an audience member. He thinks the left side of Chris's body is not pointing as quickly as the right. Len says that Chris kept losing the timing, so he must listen to the music and work on the timing - but apart from that fairly major problem, it was good. Alesha said she saw an improvement on the kicks, even if they weren't perfect, but she thought he had the most spring of any of the jives. Bruno says he threw himself into it, but he made a mess of it, and that now they're at week five. "You're another one who can do it, so please come back and do it," he finishes, prompting Chris to respond, "What, in the dance-off? Thanks!" Heh.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Chris says that was probably the worst he's done the routine all week, and gets an "oh dear, baby" from Ola. He doesn't know what happened, and begs people to let him come back next week. Scores: Craig 5, Len 6, Alesha 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 22. The same as Laila. Again, I don't agree, but the scoring has been particularly mad this week.

Final leaderboard: Ricky and Natalie at the top, then Jade and Ian, then Zöe and James, then Ali and Brian, then Natalie and Vincent and Phil and Katya, then Ricky and Erin, then Jo and Brendan, then Laila and Anton and Chris and Ola, then Joe and Kristina, and poor Craig and Flavia, languishing undeservedly, I think, at the bottom. As Tess tells us we can turn the leaderboard on its head, Jade suddenly appears behind her and shuffles into position, which strikes me as hilarious even though I don't really know why.

Recap. And no, I'm not recapping the recap.

Craig is asked who should be worried tonight, and he says Ricky and Natalie should be worried, but only because Zöe and James are hot on their heels. Apparently he's forgotten all about poor Jade and Ian. [Racialist. - Carrie] Len is asked who didn't perform to their best tonight, and Len says he doesn't want to single anyone out, but there is a group of dancers who are falling behind, while three or four look like potential winners, the rest of the pack have potential and are not using it. Alesha's asked why she gave Ricky a 10, and she says because she couldn't fault it, and got swept away in the fairytale and the romance. Bruno is asked who he wants to see next week, and Bruno says he's looking forward to seeing all of the Latins next week, because the samba is difficult, and the Latin has been lacklustre so far this series.

Time for a group samba to show us what we can expect next week. It's pretty good, though the close-up of Anton and Erin reminds me why I tend not to have terribly high expectations of their Latin routines. [When Erin decides to use comedy in your Latin routine, let alone nipple-exposing comedy, you know you're in trouble. - Carrie]

The celebs are back in the House of Tesstosterone watching their pro partners. Ricky says he particularly wanted to impress Alesha this week, and so for her to give him the 10 meant everything. Tess then claims that Alesha holds the record for the Viennese waltz with 40, and - no. She got 38 for it in series five, and 39 for it if we count last year's Christmas special. Sorry to be a pedant, but sometimes I can't help myself. Craig is asked what he'll do if he's in the dance-off for a third time, and he says he'll come out fighting, but he really wants to stick around for Blackpool. Jo got her highest score to date, and she thinks she did her Viennese waltz better than she did any other. "Talking of improvement," Tess says, and turns to Joe. Sigh. I'm not buying this improvement arc at all. To his credit, Joe says he can't be happy about being off the bottom because now it means Craig's there, and he doesn't like that either.

After the It Takes Two trailer, it's time for the night's real talking point - a tango waltz performed by Vincent and Flavia, who were conspicuous by their absence from the group samba earlier. It's gorgeous, though I wish I could say the same for Flavia's dress, which is ghastly, making her look like a little girl at Cotillion. But yes, the dance itself is a wonderful display of romance and intimacy, and Flavia and Vincent can sell that like almost no other professional couple on this show can, despite the split.

The phone lines close, and for a bit of filler, there's a VT about the judges talking about the contestants. To break it down: Chris started well but is slipping, Laila is sailing away with the ballroom but her Latin could be (ha!) a problem, Joe needs to be lighter on his feet, Ali needs to loosen up, Craig panics too much, Natalie has a lot more to give that she isn't showing, Ricky W mustn't rest on his laurels, Jo gives it her best shot, but it might not be enough, Phil is a worry because of the surgery, Jade has wonderful energy but can be a bit too wild, Ricky G has won the personality battle but needs to win the technical battle, and Zöe needs to get her confidence up to be a contender. With what's about to happen, I think that may be a problem.

It's still not time for the results, as it's time for Spandau Ballet. They're performing a ghastly muzac version of 'Gold', and having sat through it once, I know that to attempt to do so again would be folly indeed. *fast forwards*

At last, it's the Moment of Truth. The following couples are safe, and will be back next week: Ricky and Natalie, Natalie and Vincent, Phil and Katya, Jo and Brendan, Jade and Ian, Ali and Brian, Ricky and Erin, Craig and Flavia, Chris and Ola, and Laila and Anton. That leaves Zöe and James in the bottom two with Joe and Kristina. And I think we all know who this is going to turn out, but I can't imagine Zöe will be getting that confidence boost everyone says she needs. I mean, ending up in the dance off having been third out of twelve with the judges has got to sting however you look at it. There's no time for advice from Len tonight, so Zöe and James get straight on with their jive. It's spikier this time, and I daresay shock is probably quite a good motivator. It does make me wonder just how much longer the show's producers are going to allow the fact that the general public, as a whole, has not warmed to James Jordan continue to hobble some quite talented female celebs. Gabby Logan took an early powder, as did Cherie Lunghi, and Zöe's at risk of one here. While I don't particularly like calling for anyone to lose their job, I can't help thinking it might be good for the show if he isn't back next year. [But that might mean we wouldn't keep Ola, and that would be terrible. - Carrie] Joe and Kristina's second run at their jive is a bit more animated, and had this been their first attempt, I think I might've actually understood all that improvement stuff from the judges - though perhaps I'm just feeling kinder towards him knowing that he's going home.

Craig votes to save Zöe and James because "the choice is clear", Alesha is sad to be losing Joe and Kristina (why?), but has to save Zöe and James, and Bruno saves "Zoe and Ian", apparently under the illusion he's watching series three. Len is asked for his opinion, and he says that he would've saved Zöe and James too. Kristina says it's been wonderful teaching him, and Tess marvels that Joe is undefeated in boxing but was knocked out by dancing. Joe and Kristina head off for their final dance, and in the background, poor Zöe looks absolutely crestfallen. The other contestants come out to hug them goodbye, and with that, the Welsh Dragon is out of the competition.

Monday, 12 October 2009

This week on It Takes Two, we have learnt...

- The show's lighting designer is quite cute.
- Jo Wood agreed to do the show because she loves chandeliers.
- Darren thinks it was the wrong decision to eliminate him and Lynda. Shocker, I know.
- Everything in dance is about moving from foot to foot. I know that sounds obvious, but Dame Karen Hardy said it, and therefore it is FACT.
- Darren's idol is Roland Rat.
- Phil and Katya had their first fight on Tuesday. She threw a pen at him.
- Ola calls Chris "bayb".
- This weekend's routine will be Ola's first competitive jive on the show. Considering most of her previous partners, that is probably just as well.
- Sometimes the Strictly costume designers use the costumes to disguise the dancers' shortcomings. SHOCKER!
- Claudia once sat on Kelly Brook's lap in the make-up room and told her her body was extraordinary. Kelly was alarmed.
- Anton and Laila thought Jade and Ian's salsa was the best of the night. They are entirely correct in thinking this.
- The rubbish Strictly statistician has a very sinister laugh.
- Jade has fast twitch fibres, which is what makes her run so fast.
- Ricky Whittle doesn't like wearing tight collars. Presumably it's all that time spent on Hollyoaks that's given him an aversion to buttoning up his shirts.
- Sian Williams terrorises Chris by humming the Strictly theme music whenever she's nearby.
- Bonnie Tyler is a Strictly fan. Bonnie Tyler for series eight! She claims she can't dance to save her life, but honestly, does that matter? IT'S BONNIE TYLER!
- Craig Revel-Horwood previewing the dresses on the Friday panel is the best thing ever.
- Everybody gets their fake tans done in a grotty makeshift booth backstage. Ian was in there when Claudia went knocking, with those pecs of steel on full display. Who's surprised? No one? Yeah, we thought so.
- Zöe and James's jive is looking uh-MAY-zing.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Taking stock

Top 13: 10th October 2009

If nobody minds, I'm not going to spend ages in this recap considering the implications of the "race row" on the show itself, partly because I think that to do so is unlikely to do anyone any favours, and partly because despite there being one couple fewer to dance this week, the running time is still an eye-wiping 135 minutes, so if it's all the same to everyone else, I'm just going to get right on and take this motherfucker to pieces. As it were.

So, last week everyone danced together for the first time, and lots of people fucked up. So this week they've all got something to prove, but one couple must leave the competition. This is Strictly Come Dancing - live! And Ali wants her mum. Titles! And vaguely off-rhythm audience clapping, of course.

Bruce and Tess make their entrance once more, and after so many weeks of getting it more-or-less right, Tess has decided to wear a one-sleeved red dress with a split right up to the knickerline which does not look good at all. Oh, Tess. You were doing so well, too. Bruce begins the show by getting his phone out and Twittering, which is as good an excuse as any for me to say, hey, follow us, if you aren't doing so already. Essentially it's an overlong gag that serves as an excuse for "the head of the BBC" to refer to Bruce as a big twit. That joke's as tired as Natalie Cassidy in rehearsals, guys. Seriously.

Our couples arrive: Zöe and James, Ricky and Erin, Jo and Brendan, Chris and Ola (and mercy me, Ola's dress is apparently auditioning for the title role in The Emperor's New Clothes) [I love Ola so much - Carrie], Natalie and Vincent, Jade and Ian (her in a ruffly red dress, him in a black shirt opened to the navel and teamed with postbox-red trousers, making me want to see their salsa NOW, dammit), Craig and Flavia, Ricky and Natalie, Lynda and Darren, Phil and Katya, Ali and Brian, Joe and Kristina, and Laila and Anton.

Bruce would like to begin by dispelling a tabloid rumour that's been circulating: no, not that one, the one about him having an affair with Lynda Bellingham. Lynda plays up to this one admirably. Jo looks chronically depressed already, bless her.

First up tonight are Zöe and James. Bruce tells us that Zöe hurt a rib in training this week - it's been a bad week for everyone, apparently. In her VT, Zöe reveals how she had to improve a bit of last week's paso routine when she couldn't quite get hold of her skirt, and was worried about getting busted, but needlessly, because the judges loved it. In training, James explains to Zöe that heel turns are one of the most difficult steps, but she needs to learn them because Len loves them. Heh. Zöe's feeling slightly more confident as time goes on, she tells us. She's glad people are enjoying what she's doing so far, and hopes to continue.

Their foxtrot is danced to 'This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)'. Some hesitancy aside, it's a nice, smooth routine, quite classy and graceful. I enjoyed it about as much as I'm ever going to enjoy a foxtrot, let's put it that way. Bruce welcomes back our fabulous singers, Dave Arch, and his wonderful orchestra, and turns to the judges. Since we rag so much on the way Tess dresses, in the interest of fairness I should probably point out that Alesha may have got changed in the dark before tonight's show, since she's wearing a leather jacket over a shimmering silver dress, with large dangly earrings and Rocky Horror-red lipstick. It's not a total disaster, but it's not a great look either. Sorry, Alesha. I still love you, though.

Len says that they've just shown us many of the qualities we need from the foxtrot - it was a very accomplished performance. Alesha says that she found it to be a very stressful dance when she did it, but she thought Zöe coped really well, just as she'd had a feeling she would. Bruno calls it "a foxtrot glistening with glamour" and says that even with the foxtrot they managed to inject a bit of sex appeal, though he cautions Zöe to remember to lift her sternum. Craig thought the timing throughout was spot-on, with beautiful figures, though there was a section where Zöe's balance was slightly off.

Zöe and James decamp to the House of Tesstosterone, where Tess asks Zöe if she's the dark horse, and Zöe's all "THAT'S TOO MUCH LIKE A COMPLIMENT, STOP CONFUSING ME." Scores: Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 33. Zöe is thrilled to have had a nine, even if it was from Len. (That last bit was me editorialising, btw.)

Chris and Ola are next. Bruce reminds us that Chris's confidence slipped last week during his messy quickstep, and Chris was very sad to have let Ola down. In rehearsals, Ola struggles to get Chris to be sexy. "I believe in you! I love dancing with you!" she tells him. Honestly, these two just don't get any less adorable.

I'll be honest - I had my reservations about the concept of Chris doing the salsa, but he's actually pretty good. His arms are a bit all over the place, but he's managed to banish his self-consciousness for the most part and commits to shaking that booty, and when they're in hold, there's a pleasing sexuality to the routine. Chris slides onto the floor and flips back up (watch out for more of this later), and longterm fans of Ola's choreography will be pleased to see the routine of the man-stands-there-with-arms-in-the-air-while-Ola-writhes-around-him-in-a-circle manoeuvre. You know, the one she integrated for Kenny Logan every week, leading to the infamous pole dancer from Poland comment from Arlene. But yeah, I enjoyed that. It wasn't exactly chock-full of salsa content, but it was fun to watch, which is what I'm looking for.

There are jokes about Ola's lack of textile coverage, and Bruce asks Len what he's looking for in the salsa, "as if you haven't seen it" - heh. Len says there needs to be lots of rhythm and even a touch of raunch is acceptable. He felt Chris was good in hold, but slightly self-conscious when he was in open position. However, he thought the flavour of the dance was captured. Alesha tells Chris, "You are good dancer", one of many comments tonight that will inspire me to send the grammar police round to her place after the show, and she would've liked to see more finesse in his arms. She says she judges a salsa on whether it makes you want to get the party started, and his was lukewarm - not as good as Matt Di Angelo's, which is not as random a comment as you might think, because Matt is in the audience tonight. Wave to Matt, everybody! [*waves with a single middle digit* - Carrie] Bruno thinks the movement was a bit like "Bob the Builder", and gets booed, causing him to yell, "Let me finish! Let me go to the positive!" Hee! He tells Chris that his timing was surprisingly good, and he's getting there. Craig thought it lacked the energy needed for the salsa, and thought Chris spent most of the dance mincing around the outside. [HOMOPHOBE. - Carrie] Chris and Ola and Ola's absence of clothing hustle backstage.

Chris tells Tess that he had a great time doing the dance, and Ola says she's very proud of him. Chris thinks his mojo might be coming back. Scores: Craig 5, Len 6, Alesha 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 25. Tess asks if Craig's score was a bit low, and several people sitting behind shout, "Too low! Too low!" Chris says he loves that five, and Tess ask if he's trying to get into Craig's good books, to which Chris responds in the affirmative. Snerk.

Lynda and Darren are on next: we're reminded that her paso wasn't well-received last week. Lynda wonders if five million people might have gone for a cup of tea when they were supposed to vote for her. Hee. Lynda thinks she is not suited to the foxtrot because she is small and overweight. She says that it never occurred to her that the show would make her feel nervous about herself, and she's unsure if she can make people believe she's a 5'10", thin and graceful woman.

Their foxtrot is to 'Calendar Girl', appropriately enough, and while there's a bit of dance content involved, the majority of the routine seems to involve a gentle stroll around the floor. Hmm. It ends with a bit of comedy choreography where Darren mimes taking Lynda's picture. Fair enough. Craig thought it was a bit stiff, and Lynda had no shape to her topline, and the dance lacked flow - it was very walk-y, and too safe. ("You should see me in the nude at the theatre," replies Lynda, to which Craig politely responds, "No, thank you, darling"), though he thinks it's a dance that suits her, it just needs adjustment. Len thought it was simple and effective. It could've done with a bit more drive, but on the whole, good job. Alesha says it was pleasant, and that Lynda coped well with some difficult choreography, though she too felt it was walk-y and encourages Lynda to remember that it's an emotional journey as well as a physical one. And then she tells Lynda that she doesn't want to see "a 5'10" stick insect" and that she loves Lynda just as she is, though thankfully the show doesn't suddenly get all REAL WIMMINZ! at this point, because if it did, I might have thrown something. Anyway, everyone applauds Lynda for BEING WHO SHE IS, and then Bruno says it was a foxwalk rather than a foxtrot - he felt she was trying to do everything correctly, but it never really felt like she was dancing. Lynda is Bruce's favourite.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Lynda pretends to strip. Aiieee! She and Darren agree that they've done the routine better, but the nerves get to her sometimes. Scores: Craig 5, Len 7, Alesha 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 24.

Ali and Brian are next and Ali's hair is looking worryingly birds' nest like. Ali has apparently struggled with being sexy - someone should point out to her that if she wasn't, Hollyoaks would've given her all the storylines they usually reserve for ugly people and certainly wouldn't have kept making her strip down to her underwear as they often did - you know, before she got knocked up with the spawn of Justin and got sent to prison and murdered by a lesbian. Ali says that the whole experience of the salsa "is like having a naked dream" and reflexively covers her shoulders. Bless. It looks pretty awesome in rehearsals, I have to say.

Okay, I'll get this out of the way now. This is a great salsa routine - in fact, it has more salsa content than any of the others this evening, possibly more so than all of them put together. It's full of very complicated-looking arm interlinks and also incorporates a neckdrop that goes so low it made both me and my boyfriend gasp out loud when we saw it. As a result, I don't really understand some of what follows, especially the scoring.

Alesha thinks the routine was very very sexy, with great control and rhythm, and she compliments the trust between them as evidenced by the neckdrop, and Brian's choreography. Her only reservation is that she would've liked to see Ali relaxed more, as she was occasionally a bit stiff. Bruno says that Ali is a great dancer, but she's not taking it all the way - he expects more for her, and thinks that perhaps because there was so much for her to do that it was hard for her to perfect it all. Craig then snots that he disagrees with Alesha and Bruno, because he loved it. And if anyone can point me towards any part of Alesha's comments that suggest she didn't love this dance, please, knock yourself out. Whatever, Craig. He says it was jam-packed full of choreography and she handled the steps brilliantly. Len thought it was clean and fast, but a bit too hectic. THAT'S WHAT A FUCKING SALSA LOOKS LIKE, LEN. Christ on a cream cracker.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Tess tries to make sense of the judges' comments, and fails - and for once, it's not her fault. Scores: Craig 8, Len 8, Alesha 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 32. I am really shocked that didn't even merit a single nine. I know it's not exactly "underscored", but for the sheer scope and ambition of the routine, and the largely flawless execution, I thought it deserved more, and will be sat here now having a bit of a grump about it on Ali's behalf for the rest of the weekend.

Bruce cracks a joke about how the show has often caused its contestants to lose weight, and how one has already lost a stone: Jo Wood. There is a literally huge pause while absolutely no one gets this joke - possibly because, like me, the audience were mentally halfway to the "lost 13 stone of useless flesh" variant of that joke before that particular punchline took them by surprise. Last week's VT flashback is favourably-tinted, and Jo says that she's grateful for the public keeping her in. She needs to get confident, stupid. Brendan is glad to be the one who's helping her through it. Jo says that last year she was miserable, but this is like a new adventure in her life.

I have a lot of warmth for Jo, so I wish I could say nice things about her foxtrot, but it's hopeless - Brendan is essentially carrying her around the floor for about 85% of it, and not even covering it up particularly well. She clearly doesn't have a clue what she's doing. Bruno says that Brendan needs a prize for determination and superhuman effort, since he literally pushed Jo through the routine. Craig says that he agonises when Jo is out of hold, but that when they were in hold, Brendan guided her well - though he worries that she's relying on him far too much, as it takes two to dance. Weirdly, he thinks it's her best routine to date, which makes NO SENSE. Len thought it started well when she was out of hold, but that her problem is co-ordination - either her top line was good or her feet were good, but never both at once. Alesha thought it was shaky, but there were glimmers of hope and moments of confidence. She wants Jo to really believe in herself.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Tess is chanting, "Have a go, Jo!" Does she want Jo to hit the judges? Jo says she's loved every minute of it so far, a tad unconvincingly. Scores: Craig 4, Len 6, Alesha 5, Bruno 5 for a total of 20. Brendan says they've danced it better in training, and it's a shame that Jo's nerves got to her tonight. Sweet and lovely Brendan scares me a little, although not as much as sweet and lovely James Jordan would, if such a thing were ever to happen. [I love sweet and lovely Brendan too. Being in love seems to have done a lot for him. - Carrie]

And now, Natalie and Vincent, training for their salsa. Once again we address Natalie's nerves from last week, and Vincent says he is happy to be in the middle of the leaderboard because he knows one day they will be top. I assume Vincent has seen a vision of a world in which Ali, both Rickys, Laila, Zöe and Jade (and possibly a few others) have been temporarily incapacitated by a particularly contagious athlete's foot epidemic. Natalie thinks she doesn't have to worry about posture for this dance, which explains an awful lot about what we're going to see shortly. They are going to pretend they are in a club in an attempt to keep Natalie's nerves away.

Natalie looks rather lovely this week - the dark blue that she's wearing is a good colour on her, and the fit of her dress is flattering. Her salsa is rather sloppy, though - I appreciate she's going for creating the party spirit, which she's doing a fairly good job of, but I'd at least like an attempt at technical proficiency. Craig says that she delivered, however it felt like a dance of two halves, because the top and the bottom were rarely in synch - but if she can combine the two, she'll have a very respectable salsa. Len liked the mix of steps and her free and easy attitude, and thinks it's her best dance to date, like he hasn't said that so many times that it's lost all meaning. Alesha says that Natalie knows how to get the party started and made everyone else want to join in, but tells Natalie to finish her moves because if she doesn't do that properly, the subsequent moves are affected. Bruno liked it, but warns her to strengthen her core in order to allow her top and bottom halves to work together.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Natalie is thrilled and says that her nerves are mostly gone. Scores: Craig 7, Len 8, Alesha 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 29 - Natalie's highest score so far.

Oh dear Lord - time for Joe and Kristina. He's philosophical about being bottom so often, since he figures at least the only way is up from there. Kristina brings in Joe's father and coach, Enzo, largely I suspect because she has officially tried everything to get some rhythmic movement out of him so far, and still hasn't succeeded. [That's not what I read. FNAR! - Carrie] The support of Joe's family keeps him driven to stay out of the bottom two this week, he says. Let's see how that goes, shall we?

Their foxtrot is to 'Feeling Good', and perhaps there is a very slight improvement, in that Joe now moves like a mannequin rather than a robot, but hey, at least he's getting progressively more human-like. He's rather hunched over throughout, though, and there are definitely moments where he doesn't know what he's doing. Good God, man, STAND UP STRAIGHT. Sorry. But his posture is shocking. I know, I know, he's a boxer, yadda yadda yadda. But still, sort it out already. No wonder Bruce pronounces his name "Cal-saggy".

There's a random interlude where Bruce tells us that the BBC has highlights of that internet-only England game later tonight, apparently oblivious to the fact that this show is watched entirely by women and gays, none of whom give a shit about football, obviously. Len tells Joe he's improved and is more confident, and then the Random Len Generator spits out "your best dance to date" for about the billiontieth time this evening - I think someone needs to tighten the screws on that thing. Alesha tells him to get his bum in and his back straight - like, THANK you - and work on his posture because that will help him in the other ballroom dances he has to do. Bruno tells him he needs to sense the music, and tells Kristina to give him a tape he can listen to in his downtime so he can practice feeling the beat. Bruce tells Craig to put his glasses on so Joe can't hit him. Heh. Craig says there were no signs of improvement, and that's it. Kristina calls him rude. I'd say it was more blunt than rude, but I can see why she'd be upset.

The House of Tesstosterone cheers that they can see improvement. Tess asks Joe whether boxing is scarier than Strictly, and Joe mumbles something about Madison Square Gardens that I can't really make out. Sorry. He thinks it's getting easier, anyway. Scores: Craig 3, Len 6, Alesha 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 20.

We're halfway! Woo! Leaderboard thus far: Zöe and James at the top, then Ali and Brian, then Natalie and Vincent, then Chris and Ola, then Lynda and Darren, and with Jo and Joe tying in last place.

Who's next? Why, it's Laila and Anton. Their VT makes no reference to the tabloid scandal, thankfully, choosing instead to focus on the onscreen problems they've faced, like Laila forgetting her moves. Their foxtrot training looks like it's going well, and Laila says she's in very safe hands, foxtrot-wise. They hug, because EVERYTHING IS FINE AND THEY JUST WANT TO PUT IT BEHIND THEM, OKAY?

I have to say, I think this routine is lovely - I'm never going to get excited about a foxtrot (and certainly not after last year's final), but this looks graceful and well-executed, as far as my novice eye can discern. Laila taps herself on the head at the end, though I'm not sure if that's self-admonishment or not. Alesha calls it the best foxtrot of the night so far. Bruno thinks it was controlled and smooth as silk, but Laila made a mistake again. Laila asks desperately if he'll marry her, and he refuses. Craig calls it classy, confident, and "comfortable to watch", which doesn't seem like the highest of compliments, but there you go. Oh, and Len is not asked for his opinion. HA!

Backstage, Laila calls Alesha "a darling" for her comments, and says that she loves the foxtrot, she just "can't remember it". Heh. Scores: eights from Craig and Bruno, nines from Len and Alesha for a total of 34, taking them to the top of the leaderboard. "Enjoy it while the lead is yours," warns Tess, which segues neatly into...

...Ricky and Natalie, occupiers of the top spot in every week they've competed so far. Ricky is excited that it's salsa week. However, it's problematic because he's currently got a massive storyline in Hollyoaks and is on set every day. Natalie doesn't know how he's managing to juggle acting and dancing.

This routine feels a bit more like Natalie Lowe featuring Ricky Whittle, to be honest. He's static for more of it than I would like, and his requirements seem to be mainly posing rather than doing much of the actual dancing. When she slides through his legs, she appears to hit him in the crotch, and we see Bruno start writing something down in his notes behind them. Heh. Again, I'd question the actual amount of salsa in the choreography, especially given the time wasted on shit like unnecessarily backflips. There's even a bit where Natalie twirls and Ricky literally WALKS around her. A bit of a disappointment, this one.

Bruno calls him "Ricky Martin", and says he went for it, but lost time a bit and was possibly under-rehearsed. Craig says there were some sticky moments and he needed more choreography, but he loved the routine and LOVED the backflip. Len liked bits, but didn't like the backflip - Ricky repeated one great chunk of it which made it repetitive, but thinks Ricky is a good dancer and did a good job. It scares me when I agree with Len's comments more than I agree with Craig's. Alesha says that if this was the first time she'd seen him, she'd be impressed, but she's disappointed because she thinks he's capable of better. "You're not Andrew Castle," she says. Miaow!

In the House of Tesstosterone, Tess's statement that "they were disagreeing behind me wildly during the judges' comments" is followed, hilariously, by Zöe looking to her left all "...we were?" Ricky thinks he's in the wrong career, he wants to start dancing. Hey, anything that gets boring Calvin out of Hollyoaks is fine by me. Natalie thinks there is always room for improvement. Scores: eights all round for 32. And I'm sorry, but a hearty "bullshit" to that getting the same score as Ali's far-superior routine. SHE HAS A DAY JOB TOO, YOU KNOW.

Craig and Flavia are up next. He's excited about the possibility of how good their foxtrot could be...and may have to remain that way. (Spoilers!) He needs to deliver the same way on the night as he does in training, he feels. He hopes this is going to be his breakthrough dance.

Aww, something about Craig looks really childlike tonight. That their routine begins with a lot of arm-twists makes me wonder if they're going to just bugger convention and do a salsa instead. And perhaps they should - it's a rather awkward performance, not least because Flavia's long dress keeps flying between Craig's legs as though it's a sentient being determined to make him trip. He's concentrating very hard, but it's just not really working.

Judge Craig thinks Contestant's Craig's frame is a disaster. Len thinks it's a gallant effort at a VERY DIFFICULT DANCE. You guys: do you think the foxtrot is a difficult dance? I can't be sure. If only Len would give us his opinion on the matter even once, eh? Then Bruce chimes in that it is DIFFICULT FOR MEN TO LEAD, God help us. Alesha says that Craig seemed to be enjoying this one, and he needs to listen to what Flavia's telling him because that was an improvement. Bruno reiterates that this is THE HARDEST DANCE TO DO, because it looks easy but it isn't. He thinks it was a good effort. Also, just once, I want Bruce's parting comment to refer to the role that I know Craig for the best. Perhaps "has our Queer as Folk star cocked it up?" [This has made me cough for five minutes with laughter. - Carrie]

In the House of Tesstosterone, Craig says that he loved doing that routine - for him, he thinks it's the best he's ever danced. Scores: Craig 5, Len 7, Alesha 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 24. Craig is pleased to have a seven from Len. Because that score is infamously hard to get from Len, don't you know.

Jade and Ian now. Hooray! We see their marvellous quickstep from last week, and Ian thinks salsa will be a good dance for her, though she needs to learn not to overanalyse things. To fill some time, she takes Ian off training the way she does it for her athletics an' that. Ian is wearing a bright yellow t-shirt and lycra running trousers, and looks fabulous, in every sense of the word. I love Ian. He says that this has been an eye-opener for him in the best way to train Jade. He attempts a long jump, and it is quite comical.

They are dancing to a salsa-tinged version of 'La Isla Bonita', and once again I'm disappointed that it doesn't seem very salsa-y - I can see cha cha cha in there, and a bit of samba, but not a lot of salsa. However, these two are officially my favourite couple this year and their energy and enthusiasm is second to none. Also, I don't normally illustrate these things, but I think Jade's finishing position needs to be immortalised for posterity [displaced boobs not included - Carrie]:

Ladies and gentlemen, Jade and Ian have just won Strictly Come Dancing 2009. Hope you enjoyed the recaps, see you next year!

Oh, okay, FINE.

Bruce remarks that her finishing position looked like the Isle of Man, which doesn't make a lot of sense but is still quite funny. [Three legs in a circle, innit. Like this -

See? - Carrie] Len says that the routine was fun and effervescent, but Jade steps back too far each time which hampers her dancing. Alesha thinks Jade and Ian are the best-dressed couple of the evening and that they did really well, capturing the salsa vibe, but Jade needs to rein it in because it gets messy at times. Bruno thinks it's an explosion of colour and spice, but that Jade lost the beat at times because she couldn't keep up. "It's these legs!" Jade protests. Craig thought the energy was spectacular, but the movement was too broad, though he finishes with "fabulous grinding, darling" and suggesting that he and Len should attempt that final position. And if that comment isn't screaming out for someone to fire up Photoshop, I don't know what is.

Backstage: Jade strokes Ian's chest, and her parents are in the audience tonight. Scores: Craig 7, Len 7, Alesha 8, Bruno 7, for a total of 29. Ian doesn't think the scores match the comments. It does irritate me slightly that they scored the same as Natalie and Vincent, but then tonight's scoring seems off-kilter a lot of the time, to be honest. [SHOCKING. - Carrie]

Ricky and Erin are next. There's some dispute in the VT, since Ricky claims he didn't intend for his paso doble to be comical. He thinks it's time to take a more serious stance, though this doesn't go down so well in rehearsals, because Erin keeps laughing at him. Sorry, WITH him. With him. Yeah. Ricky is concerned people will laugh at him on the night.

Fortunately, nobody laughs at their foxtrot, because it's fairly restrained. Possibly this is because Erin's choreography skills tend towards the ballroom more anyway, so she doesn't have to court the comedy vote quite so much here. But it does demonstrate that Ricky is a pretty decent dancer, who doesn't need to rely on being "the funny one" - I reckon so, anyway. Alesha tells him that he needs to improve his ballroom - his shoulders are creeping up still, even though they've improved since his waltz. She thought it was understated and "not half bad". Bruno comments, "It's hard playing straight, isn't it?" prompting an audience member behind him to giggle uncontrollably. He thinks his technique needs work, but it's a step in the right direction. Craig encourages him to smile more and stand up straight, but he thought the movement around the floor was good. Len says that the salsa is an easy dance, UNLIKE THE FOXTROT, WHICH IS A HARD DANCE, DIDN'T YOU HEAR? He thinks "some of us sitting here" don't know what a tough dance a foxtrot is. Only those currently fortunate enough to be deaf, I should think. Besides, I think some of you sitting there don't have much of a clue about the salsa either, Len, judging by your comments on Ali and Brian's routine.

House of Tesstosterone: Ricky takes the judges' comments on board, and Tess claims he's been ill all week, not that she's going for the sympathy vote. Scores: six from Craig, eight from Len, and sevens from Alesha and Bruno for a total of 28. Ricky got 21 for his waltz, so he and Erin are pleased with this vote of improvement.

And finally, it's Phil and Katya. I must admit, I don't envy Phil having to dance the salsa so soon after knee surgery. He was disappointed to mess up the end of his quickstep. We see him recovering post-surgery, and being told he can start dancing again on Tuesday afternoon. He says that even if the knee isn't working, the hips will be. Training does look quite painful, and Phil's worried it might give way, but fingers crossed and all that.

They're dancing to 'Long Train Running', and I'm impressed at how good Phil's salsa is, actually - there's good rhythm on display here, and some nicely complicated steps, and it's a very pleasant routine to watch. He is stood stock-still at one point, though that may be necessary to prevent him becoming permanently injured, I suppose. He's not as active in this dance as perhaps he could be, but for a post-surgery routine I think it's actually pretty good - certainly, when he does dance, I think he's rather good. Bruno is surprised that Phil can work his bum with such enthusiasm, and he thinks he did an incredible job under the circumstances. Craig thought it was entertaining and zealous, but the opening didn't work for him, and Phil didn't really dance much afterwards. Len thought Phil was brave to expose himself on the stage - it could've done with more content, but it was a good job. Alesha loved it - she thought Phil used his buttocks well, and there were good basic salsa steps - she would've liked more content, but thinks he did well all things considered.

Tess apologises for Bruno's language, even though I can't figure out what he said that was so bad - he said "ass", but surely that's fairly benign, isn't it? I mean, it's certainly no "the hills are alive with the sound of bullshit". Hilariously, an oblivious Katya asks what he said, and Tess is all "yeah, hi, I can't exactly repeat it in front of the cameras, dear." Phil says the knee is holding up well, but refuses to replay the bum action. Scores: Craig 4, Len 7, Alesha 6, Bruno 7 for a total of 24. Phil is just glad he got through it.

Scoreboard: Laila and Anton top, Zöe and James second, Ali and Brian tying for third, then Natalie and Vincent tying for fourth or fifth, depending on how the new scoring system works, then Ricky and Erin, then Chris and Ola, then Lynda and Darren and Craig and Flavia and Phil and Katya all with 24 points (honestly, I think Phil should be higher - not massively so, perhaps, but once again, these scores really have been baffling me tonight), then finally Jo and Brendan and Joe and Kristina tying in last place.

The phone lines are OPEN! Or rather, they were open at this point, but are closed again now. Don't vote, it won't count and you may still be charged, etc etc.

After the video recap, we go to the judges. Craig thinks Jo showed the most improvement tonight - it's not difficult, since she doubled her score with him from two to four, but he thinks she's starting to listen. Len's favourite performance was from Laila and Anton, because their foxtrot, WHICH IS A VERY DIFFICULT DANCE, had all the correct tempo, Alesha thinks Zöe and James have impressed her the most week on week, but there's still room for improvement, and Bruno thinks that boy Joe and girl Jo both need to step up their game, since there is a clear gulf between them and everyone else. A gulf marked by a gap of four points, apparently.

Bruce reminds us about the boring old football again, and then it's time for an It Takes Two trailer. I love how these trailers are like "we will have the contestants on the show this week, variously, at some point".

In the House of Tesstosterone, Laila is thrilled to be top of the leaderboard, even if she didn't get it entirely right on the night. She worries that cockups are becoming her "thing". Joe and Jo are experiencing solidarity at the bottom, and each one think the other has improved. Jo was flabbergasted that Craig singled her out for improvement. Lynda says that the dance-off happens so quickly that you don't have time to think about it, but she doesn't want to be there again. Natalie enjoyed her dance this week for the first time, and wants to keep doing so. Ricky W says that everyone's raised their game, and if you make mistakes, you won't be at the top. Tess asks if he's peaked too soon, and he's like, "clearly not".

Then there's a filleriffic VT about how it feels to get a ten, led by Lisa Snowdon, arguably the most consistently overmarked contestant in Strictly Come Dancing history. NOT THAT I'M BITTER. Austin says it's the ultimate pat on the back, and Zoe Ball says there's nothing like it. Essentially, DANCING IS DIFFICULT, and TENS ARE GOOD. That's what you need to know. I do like how the Strictly website is visible on the computer behind Lisa. Subtle! Lisa says that if Craig gives you a ten, it's a good indicator that you might get a full sweep of them. Unless you're Alesha, and Len suddenly decides he's going to judge harshly for the first time in his life. NOT THAT I'M BITTER. Austin says that a 10 from Craig is practically a 15 from anyone else. I love how the subtext here is "really, we only care about getting a 10 from Craig because everyone else hands them out like lollipops".

Now there's a tap tribute to the Nicholas Brothers. I don't really know who they are, and tap dancing has forever been soiled for me by Tom bloody Chambers, so let's just bypass this bit.

The lines have closed, and now there's time for a bit more filler, where everyone is all "I love it here and do not want to leave." I think most of us could've worked that out for ourselves.

Then we have 13-year-old Dionne Bromfield, whose godmother is Amy Winehouse, who is here tonight doing backing vocals, just to prove she can still stand up for three minutes straight. Dionne is cute as a button, and she's got a nice voice, but I'm a bit tired of all this retro jazz-swing stuff nowadays. As for Amy, well, she still looks a bit lost, which should make for some excellent gifs, but frankly I'm just glad to see her still alive after everything that's happened. Also, in Dionne's favour, she is not Robbie Williams, who will be on The X Factor this weekend and who I was rather hoping had now been silenced for good. Anyway, it's all nice enough, but can we get on with it now, please?

Results time, finally: the couples who are safe are, in no particular order: Laila and Anton, Phil and Katya, Ali and Brian, Joe and Kristina (sigh), Ricky and Natalie, Ricky and Erin, Natalie and Vincent, Chris and Ola, Zöe and James, Jo and Brendan (who I genuinely thought were goners this week, all things considered), which leaves us with three couples left: Jade and Ian, Craig and Flavia, and Lynda and Darren. Only one of these is safe, and that couple is...Jade and Ian. Bloody right, too. I don't mind telling you that I was preparing a monstrous shitfit at the very prospect of them being in the bottom two. And I know the results are announced in random order, but I can't help thinking this means they aren't really pulling in the votes.

So Lynda and Darren and Craig and Flavia must face the dance-off again, for the second time each. Len advises Lynda to show more of her personality in this dance, and Craig to control his right elbow. And of course, to "just enjoy it", as I'm sure it is that simple.

Lynda and Darren dance first, and there's a bit more energy to it this time - it feels like a dance as opposed to a walk, but to be honest, I kind of think this is it for her. I can't imagine she has much more to offer, especially since even her dance-off performances are only about a 5% improvement on the main one. Craig and Flavia repeat their foxtrot - he's still somewhat stuttery and his knees are flexed most of the time, but if I were voting to save someone, I still think he's got slightly more chance of improving at this stage than Lynda has. Essentially either one could go right now and I wouldn't feel it especially unjust (disregarding the continued presence of Joe Calzaghe, naturally), but I'd be inclined to give Craig an extra week, since that's pretty much all the person who doesn't go home is likely to get.

Craig says it's a tough one, but he's going for the most confident couple on the floor, which was Lynda and Darren. Alesha thinks both couples did themselves proud, but she felt Lynda and Darren "matched the brief" better, whatever that means. Bruno says it's hard, but he votes to save Craig and Flavia, so for once head judge Len gets to use his casting vote. He thinks they both upped their game, and opts for Craig and Flavia to remain, so Lynda and Darren are out. Lynda is very gracious in defeat. She tells Bruce it was having all those affairs with him that did for her. She'll miss everybody, and also Darren. She wishes Craig luck, and says that the best man won on the night. Tess asks if she'll be continuing to dance with Darren, and Lynda says she'd best ask her husband about that.

Next week's dances will be either a Viennese waltz or a jive (hooray!), and Spandau Ballet will be performing (boo!)[hooray! - Carrie]. See you then!