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!


ht said...

I *slightly* disagree with your comments on Ali's salsa - she did a good job, and the choregraphy was A.Maz.Ing, but she was a little stiff occasionally. Salsa is all about fluidity - I know Ali and Brian were doing line style rather than Cuban, but she could still have done with loosening up a bit.
Suppose that's attributable to her embarrassment over the whole thing though!

All that being said, she was indeed significantly better than Ricky W.

Anonymous said...

you really can't stand He-who-must-not-be-named,eh?.:)
(cough,Tom Chambers,cough)
It's hilarious.

I didn't like him either, but i do recognize his existence :D. Plus, he was not a bad dancer.

But anyway, loooove your blog. Funny, witty and bitchy. i congratulate you.

Carrie said...

ht - To be honest I was with the judges on Ali - I can see that technically she's excellent, but she's just quite...rigid, I guess.

Miss Suffragette - sorry, don't know who you're talking about, but glad you like the blog. ;-)

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