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.


a-chan86 said...

oh, i love this blog far far too much! ok sure, partly cos I just agree with everything in it so it makes me feel clever and/or less desperately alone every time len gives the sportsman's +2 bonus to compensate for a lifetime of insecurity...
anyway, jst thought i'd mention, the BBC (bless) for some reason called the pro-dance-of-awesome-vertical-splittery a rumba when, ummm, no...
so colour me confused AND impressed!

Steve said...

I did think it was odd that the EPG referred to it as a rumba when I went on there to check the spelling of the dancers' names, since it didn't really look like one most of the time. That serves me right for believing ANYTHING this show tells me...