Sunday, 1 November 2009

Lucker's run out

Top 10: 31st October 2009

This recap very nearly did not get written this weekend, because I sliced two of my fingers on a broken glass this afternoon, which does not generally lead to ultimate typing comfort. Such is my dedication to you readers and this show, however, that I am surging ahead through the pain (again, in my fingers, though there is a fair bit of pain ahead in the show) to bring it to you. [Poor Steve. In a weird display of sympathy, I sliced my thumb on packaging this afternoon, if that helps? - Carrie]

Last week, there was jubilation as Bruno canned it with the foreplay and just gave Ali that 10 already, while Zöe's storyline mandated that she would have a comeback, even though her American smooth went wrong in about four places - not least the point where her arm hankies joined Erin's hair extensions from last series in a mid-show bid for freedom. Several celebs let the side down as usual, and Jo Wood was finally released from her obligations to this show in a bottom two that should have been shocking because Jade and Ian were in it, despite having been awesome, but everybody had already used up all their bottom two fury on Zöe the week before. Poor Jade. This week: ten couples remain, but one will crash out. This is Strictly Come Dancing - undead! Sorry, live! (That will be the last clunkingly awful Halloween joke I crack, honest.)

Post-titles, we are joined by Bruce and Tess. Tess's short dark dress would pass our fashion test if it weren't for the small yellow creature sitting on her shoulder, presumably attempting to eat her brains. Look out, Tess! Actually, now that I think about it, you probably have nothing to fear. Claire Sweeney is in the audience, if anyone is interested. Oh, and there's Lynda Bellingham too. Tess and Bruce lament the passing of Jo, and Bruce says that even when she received a record low score in the samba, she still brought a smile to several faces - Fiona Phillips and John Sergeant. Arf arf arf. And if I may break out the usual pedantry at this point: Fiona Phillips never actually got to perform the samba, and the lowest scoring performance of the samba from series three was actually James Martin's. I know, I'm a humourless old sow, aren't I?

Here are the couples: Zöe and James (with Zöe wearing so much green and so many feathery accessories that she looks like the Eden Project), Ricky and Erin, Chris and Ola (the latter in a lacy red catsuit with huge patches cut out at the hips, and looking FANTASTIC), Natalie and Vincent (with Natalie so caked in make up that for a second I thought she was Natalie Lowe), Jade and Ian (no PVC this week, sadly), Craig and Flavia (Flavia wearing LEOPARDPRINT), Ricky and Natalie, Phil and Katya, Ali and Brian (and I can't believe they passed up the opportunity to send him out dressed as Dracula on Halloween), and finally Laila and Anton.

Everyone's doing different dances tonight, Bruce tells us. I can't quite believe we haven't even eliminated half the contestants yet and we've already run out of new dances. Can't we bring some new ones in? It was awesome when they did the Charleston on Dancing With The Stars. Tess reminds us that next week is Blackpool, where everyone really wants to get to this year. Everyone on the show, I mean. There hasn't been a sudden surge of tourists flocking to the Vegas of the north, as far as I know. [Please note: this will not be the last time that BLACKPOOL is mentioned this evening. - Carrie]

First up are Natalie and Vincent with their jive. Bruce makes a joke about Vincent's height, which isn't especially amusing: far funnier is the fact that Bruce points out the line-up has tiny Natalie and Vincent standing next to gigantic Jade and Ian, and then we all point and laugh at both pairs of freaks. Just kidding, guys! I love you all really.

Last week, Natalie's American smooth wasn't quite as smooth as she would've liked, and apparently her bloody nerves got her again. And I say this as a person who has suffered with extreme anxiety since I was about eight, but: get the fuck on with it, already. Luckily, they survived, which is good news for Natalie, because the main reason she signed up for the show was to learn the jive. Shock news: Natalie finds rehearsals tiring. I wouldn't have seen that coming. However, she has got more energy than usual, and loves spending each day with Vincent. She really wants to get her first 30 with her favourite dance. That's this one, if you weren't paying attention.

Their jive is to 'Good Golly Miss Molly', and I have to say, I was expecting this to be a trainwreck, but it's actually quite good. Natalie isn't quite as light in the feet as you really need to be to deliver a killer jive, but there's lots of energy here and she kicks and flicks like her life depends on it. The choreography is a little on the basic side, but that's not always a bad thing. Her left arm constantly hangs off her side like a broken wing, though.

They finish and scoot over to Bruce to await the news. But first, Bruce welcomes our fabulous singers, Dave Arch, and his wonderful orchestra. And no, that comma is not misplaced: he really did pause there this time. Hooray! Bruce must be reading this blog. We also have judges, who are here to pass judgement. Bruce's intro joke is particularly poor, and Alesha's resultant laugh is particularly forced. Oh, Alesha. I know it's your first year and you're still trying to fit in, but trust me - you'll fit in a lot quicker once you learn it's best to pretend not to have heard Bruce's jokes.

Craig says that it was unbelievable, and Natalie's get-up-and-go is incredible. He loves her positive energy, but her free arm "looks very, very lonely", and she could use a bit more swivel on her chicken walks, but it was very light, and very good. Len thinks it started full of energy and completely in sync with Vincent, and then it went quieter, but he thought the whole package was fabulous. It felt like there was going to be a negative in there, but apparently not. Alesha thinks she captured the spirit of the jive, and she kept the energy going throughout a very tiring dance. Bruno thinks she had a firecracker up her bum, and that this is the kind of focus and energy she needs to maintain. Bruce tells him not to say "firecracker" ever again. Heh.

Oh, and this bit is great: Bruce's throw to the House of Tesstosterone either involves a misreading/misunderstanding of the autocue, or reveals that someone on the crew hates Natalie, because he says "will our EastEnder be heading north to Blackpool? I don't think so." Harsh!

Fortunately no one backstage seems to have picked up on this and Natalie is still flying high. She's pleased that she had a chance to do the jive, and that all the training was worthwhile - but she wants to be back next week, and she'd love to get a 30 at long last. Let's see, shall we? Scores: Craig 7, Len 8, Alesha 7, Bruno 8 for a total of - guess what? Yep, 30. What a coincidence! I'm sure that wasn't storylined at all! Anyway, Natalie is very pleased.

Ali and Brian are next, doing a paso doble. Her VT reminds us that last week's American smooth was legen - wait for it - dary. She was thrilled to get a 10 from Bruno and get the highest score of the competition so far. Finding the necessary aggression for the paso appears to be a bit difficult, though Ali points out that she has to catch a few villains in her day job, so she's obviously not a softie. Except that's fictional, isn't it? She says that if she shows Brian her aggressive side, she's worried she might scare him. I dunno, I reckon he might quite enjoy it, personally. Then there's an odd bit where a caption says "3 hours before live show" while Ali says that on Thursday morning she stubbed her toe really hard. Well, which was it? Thursday morning or 3 hours before the show? Her foot is kind of bruised, though - owee. [I think it must have been Thursday she incurred the injury cos Brian talks about missing rehearsals, but presumably it was difficult to dance three hours before the show as well. - Carrie]

Ali's skirt/cape for her paso is yellow, black and silver, which I'm not sure entirely works as a combination. It's a very neat and precise paso, with traditional music to accompany it, but Ali is grinning all the way through it, which doesn't really scream "aggression" to me. The ending is nice, though - there's a twirl where she wraps her leg around Brian, and she finishes on the floor doing the splits. She hobbles over to Bruce for her feedback. Bruno says that it was glistening but lyrical, and lyrical is not quite right for the paso - no one would mistake her for a bull. Craig says he was holding his breath throughout because he can see the bruising on her foot and it must have been horrific - however, he loves the way she danced, it was clean and accomplished, though it lacked a bit of "earth, wind and fire". Hold on, is this disco week? I thought that was last week with Anton and Laila's samba. Len thinks she danced it beautifully, and he loved the choreography, but he thinks Ali is a bit straight-legged on occasion, and although there was a lack of aggression, he took that to mean that she was portraying the cape not the bull. Alesha thinks she danced well, but she wants Ali to use her acting skills in her dance - she always looks fragile, and this is the one dance where you can't do that. However, she complements her on her armwork, which she thinks was "the best I've seen on any female celebrity, any series". And...oh boy. I kind of see where she's coming from, because there's a precision in Ali's arms that's quite rare among the celebrities, but I can't help thinking it's not a good idea for Alesha to start making "the best I've seen in any series"-type comments when this is her first series as a judge. It's just not going to end well.

Brian carries Ali backstage - no, he really does - and stands there with her in his arms for a bit before she suggests that he might want to put her down. Ali thinks in rehearsals she really got into it, but it didn't quite go to plan out there. Brian points out that they missed a whole day of rehearsals because of her injury, but he thinks she was fabulous. Scores: nine from Len, eights from everyone else for a total of 33. Tess is all "well, it doesn't match your personal best, does it?" Charming.

The third couple to perform are Craig and Flavia. Craig, we are reminded, REALLY WANTS TO GET TO BLACKPOOL, which is a really cunning resolve because it seems to be about the only thing keeping him out of the dance-off right now. We're reminded of his disastrous samba from last week, and Craig says it's incredible that the public saved them again. He's absolutely sure that the waltz will be his dance, not that we've heard that before or anything. Matt Di Angelo pops in to help them with their training, and Craig points out that Matt got 40/40 for his waltz, which puts the pressure on. If only Craig had had the foresight to forget all his steps and have a woobie meltdown last week, he probably could've achieved a similar score without having to do very much. Not that I'm still bitter. (I feel like I should have a macro for that sentence these days.) Oh, and if anyone's wondering whether Matt and Flavia are still dating, he refers to her as "the world's most gorgeous woman", which I would imagine tells you everything you need to know. [As well as comparing her to an old boot. They're SO in love. - Carrie] And then, in a complete display of WTFery, Lennox Lewis comes in. For absolutely no reason. Seriously, if you can figure out what he was doing there, please, do let me know.

Their routine is to 'Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me', but it's been re-arranged into 3/4 time rather than 4/4 time, as we learned on It Takes Two on Friday. It sounds odd like that, but I can live with it, I guess. Their waltz is...well, grading on a curve, it's pretty good. There's a bit of gapping at times, and it's all a bit hesitant, but it's probably the best dance Craig has done. And yes, I'm aware of what a hollow compliment that is. Oh, and some total genius yells "go on Craig!" in the middle of it, like they're at a football match. Because that is in no way going to ruin his concentration.

Over to the judges: Alesha says she's finally seen something she likes from Craig - she thought the body contact was good, his left arm wasn't fighting Flavia, and he's starting to look more comfortable. Bruno disagrees - he found it laboured, and he doesn't think Craig has a feel for the music, and the rise and fall felt forced to him. He doesn't think Craig can dance. And then, weirdly, he says "she's a nice girl, but I'm sorry" - referring, I presume, to the fact that Alesha liked it, which seems rather condescending. Not that Alesha isn't sometimes condescending herself, of course, but still. Craig (judge) disagrees with Bruno - he thinks it was leaps and bounds ahead of last week, though it still needs a lot of work. He's finally seeing some progression, though he spotted that Flavia stood on Craig's (contestant) foot at one point. Len can't agree with some of what Craig (judge) said or indeed ANY of what Bruno said. We are, after all, at that point in the series now where Len decides that Craig (judge) is his own personal nemesis, and starts to direct his comments to Craig (judge) rather than Craig (contestant), which is stupid. He says that of course there were mistakes (so, what? Because we know Craig isn't a naturally skilled dancer, we should stop pointing out to him when he fucks up? I'm sure that'll be immensely useful in helping him to improve), and then Len starts going on about how it's wrong to say that there was no rise and fall - which no one did. The only person to comment on the rise and fall was Bruno, who said it felt forced, which is a fair enough assessment if you ask me. He congratulates Craig on his determination, anyway, and no one slaps him, which would not have been the case had I been in Craig's or Alesha's seat during the show.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Craig and Flavia are pleased that there have been positive comments. Tess asks what Craig makes of Bruno's "you can't dance" comment, and Craig says he was dreading him saying that, because he actually thinks he can. Also, it's his birthday tonight, so a good score would be a lovely present. Scores: Craig 5, Len 7, Alesha 7, Bruno 5, for a total of 24. Except Bruno's score comes up as six on the screen, and a total of 25, which sends Tess into BBC Honesty Meltdown lest someone complain to Ofcom, and she confirms about eleven times that Bruno's score was indeed 5 and the overall score was therefore 24. This is, however, still his joint highest score, so he's happy. Ish. He wants to get to Blackpool, by the way, in case you'd forgotten that.

Who's next? Chris and Ola. There follows an extremely uncomfortable bit where Bruce calls him "Craig" in the intro and continues almost to the end before realising what happened and starting to wonder out loud what he actually said. Seriously, it hurt to watch it. Chris's VT shows his and Ola's gleeful reaction after he remembered all the steps to his American smooth, and this week he wants to get both the performance and the steps right. Chris, however, is plagued by self-doubt, so his dad comes along to buck him up a bit. His dad kind of looks a bit like an older version of Tuffers from certain angles, though most of the time he just looks like - well, an older version of Chris. As you might expect.

Their cha cha cha is to 'Shake Your Groove Thing', and it's fun to watch, but there's not an awful lot of choreography in there. Quite a bit of it seems to involve him just standing or kneeling while Ola dances around him, and I really thought we'd moved on from that. Bruce asks Len if Chris's routine was more carefree tonight - Len agrees it was much more lively, though he resorts to one of those tired sporting analogies to describe the performance. Golf, this time: "if you can get your putting right, then you can't drive the ball". So, while Chris gets one thing right, something goes wrong elsewhere. He says that they're back to where they were in week one, which would be a slam under normal circumstances but is both given and accepted as a compliment here. Alesha thinks he performed well, but she would like more content. His free arm is also a problem, and she wants to seal his mouth shut with tape - not, she clarifies, in a bad way, just to stop him from counting out loud while he dances. The audience start "aww"ing and Alesha gets flustered and reiterates that she doesn't mean it in a bad way, and Chris comes to her rescue and says that it was a good point. Bruno says that Chris brings the energy, but he needs to take the basic on the ball of the foot, otherwise the hip action won't come correctly. He tells Chris that he needs to be more focused. Craig thought it was cha-cha-chunky (heh), but it had an amazing dynamic and fantastic timing: "a fine endeavour, my love".

In the House of Tesstosterone, Tess compliments Ola on her marvellous catsuit. We're reminded that Chris's highest score so far was 30 for his rumba - can he match it? In a word, no, but with sevens from everyone but Len, who awards the routine an eight, it's a very respectable (and very close) 29. They promise to try to keep the momentum going.

Jade and Ian are next - Jade was in the dance-off last week, and it made her worry that no one likes her. At the beginning of the week, they were struggling with the elegance of the foxtrot - Jade points out that she was a tomboy when she was younger, and then became a SPORTSWOMAN, so it is harder for her to be "ladylike", and I'm sure that general sentiment is a red-hot feminist poker, so I'm going to leave it well alone. Anyway, to help things along, Ian takes her out for high tea at the Grosvenor Hotel, and then they go dancing with some nice older people. One of the men tells Jade that he goes to Erin Boag's dance class, and offers Jade some tips. Ha! That was brilliant. The lovely old people hope Jade and Ian do well. Ian remarks it's all of his fanbase in one building. Snerk.

Oh no! Jade has the arm hankies too! What if they are also plotting to revolt? What if they finish Jade just like they finished Zöe? Run, Jade, run! Actually, Jade's arm-hankies behave themselves, thankfully, as Jade and Ian foxtrot to 'Recipe For Love', and while Jade looks a bit self-conscious as they dance on the stage and head down the stairs, once they take hold it's absolutely lovely.

Craig points out that her heel got caught in her dress which caught her out, but the kick was gorgeous, as was the movement around the floor. Len thought the dress thing was a trick, but the whole performance was a treat. TOPICAL. Alesha thinks Jade made a difficult dance look easy, and she was like a lady. And Bruno loved it. Hurrah! Jade says it's been very nerve-wracking since she was in the dance-off, but Ian has made it easy for her. She hopes the viewers liked it, and she's trying her hardest. Ian says that they want to make it to Blackpool, and that we should just see his outfit for next week. Scores: eight from Craig, nines from everyone else for a total of 35, which is possibly a tad overmarked for a dance with an apparently obvious trip in it (in all honesty, I've watched several times and I still couldn't see it), but hell, it's Jade, so it's okay by me.

Halfway leaderboard time: Jade and Ian are currently at the top with 35 points, followed by Ali and Brian with 33, Natalie and Vincent with 30, Chris and Ola with 29, and Craig and Flavia with 24. Behind Tess, Ricky Groves is looking really unwell.

The sixth couple to perform are Zöe and James, who will be performing the samba. Zöe recalls last week, where Len's comment about doing the lambada with Craig if she was in the bottom two again made her panic, because she thought she'd quite like to see Len do the lambada. Heh. She was very relieved to be safe. Zöe struggles with the concept of freestyling in rehearsals, as she hasn't been out dancing for a very long time.

They are samba-ing to 'Boogie Nights', which means another fucking disco samba. WHY? Despite the disappointing choreography, it's pretty well danced, and Zöe manages to shake her booty even if she doesn't look entirely comfortable with the idea. She giggles a lot when it's all over, and admits to Bruce that she enjoyed it.

Len tells Zöe that she's always good but very occasionally great, and there are one or two couples that feel like they are leading the pack, and that nobody is really challenging them, but Zöe could be the one to do so. And as my boyfriend and I screamed at the telly on Saturday night, as far as the show has been storylining it this series, Zöe and James are one of those couples. You can't try rewriting the plot now, Len. He thinks nerves get in her way, but once she banishes them she'll be right there. Alesha says it's nice to see her let go, and even offers a "you go, girl". Bruno likes to see her "get down and dirty with your feather duster", and then says something that I could've sworn was "shit on my face any time you want", but which I am assured was actually "shake it in my face any time you want". I'm not sure which one is more disturbing. Anyway, he tells her that she needs to remember to deliver a sharp, clipped finish on her movements in her Latin. Craig thought the bounce action was missing on the voltas, but he compliments Zöe's rhythm and timing. He would like to see more animal in there, only for Bruno to point out that she's come wearing a rainforest. Heh.

In the House of Tesstosterone, James says that's the best Zöe has danced the routine and he's very proud of her. Scores: seven from Craig, eight from Len, nine from Alesha (really?) and eight from Bruno for a total of 32. James says that the samba is HARD, and recalls being eliminated after his samba with Gabby Logan. Foreshadowing!

Ricky and Erin are on seventh, dancing the rumba, which is - say it with me now - HARD FOR A MALE CELEBRITY. His American smooth was largely well received last week, but he expresses concern that the celebs at the bottom of the table are gradually disappearing, and he wants to MAKE IT TO BLACKPOOL. They've drawn on James Bond as the inspiration for their rumba, because Ricky is a total Bond stan. Erin worries that he's more of an Austin Powers at the moment.

Appropriately enough, the soundtrack for their routine is 'Licence To Kill', which is my favourite Bond theme, just in case anyone's interested. It's not too bad, but his arm movements are very feminine, and Erin seems to be in charge of the routine, which doesn't feel right somehow.

Alesha goes "Ricky Ricky Ricky" in a Bianca Jackson sort of way, and then realises what she did and starts giggling rather shamefacedly. Bless! She says that Ricky is out of his comfort zone, but she thinks he coped well with the acting - she thought the hip action (or lack thereof) was bizarre, but she thought it wasn't a bad effort. Bruno says that Daniel Craig has nothing to worry about, and says the all-important hip action was terrible, and that this is clearly not his dance. Len is already looking set to erupt, but first we have to go to Craig, who thinks there needed to be more resistance in it, and that the whole routine was conceited.

And hoo boy, here we go. Len butts in and says that he doesn't want to sit next to Craig and kick off, but that his criticism needs to be constructive and not destructive like it is at the moment. Craig tells Len not to point at him, and Len, apparently forgetting where he is, says, "I'll bloody do more than point in a minute." As you might expect, the next thing to come out of Len's mouth is that THE RUMBA IS HARD FOR MALE CELEBRITIES (sigh), and he doesn't think "him and him" appreciate what a hard dance this is. [I kicked in my television at this point. Bloody Len. Certifiable idiot. - Carrie] And to Katherine Walker from Bromley in Kent, who wrote in to the Radio Times letters page this week, I say this: do you really still feel that Alesha's poor grammar is an annoyance? Because it doesn't seem as though her head judge is setting her a very good example right now. Erin sarcasticlaps to all of this, which is awesome, and Bruce says that they're his favourites.

Tess asks Ricky if the rumba is a hard dance for the males to lead, and I shall answer for him: no, Tess, it isn't, because the male doesn't lead the dance in this one. Erin tells Ricky he is looking hot, but he's not sure he pulled the whole sexy thing off. Scores: Craig 4 (furious look from Len), Len 8 (waving his paddle in the air like he's at fucking Sotheby's - calm down, Goodman), Alesha 7, Bruno 5 for a total of 24. Len's still waving his paddle around like a lunatic. I think someone needs a sabbatical. "We need the votes," pleads Erin.

Laila and Anton are next. Laila's disco samba last week got a lukewarm reception, and they thank the public for keeping them in. They're glad to have another ballroom dance this week - they're doing the Viennese waltz - and Anton thinks she's dancing it beautifully in rehearsals. Laila says it's encouraging to have your partner be proud of what you're doing. Anton says that if they get through it and are top of the leaderboard, he'll wear Ian's sequinned trousers. Ian, upon hearing this, runs home and barricades his wardrobe door from the inside.

They're dancing to Badly Drawn Boy's 'Once Around The Block', which feels like an odd choice for the show but works well for this dance. It's a lovely routine, and it is nice to see Laila back doing something she's comfortable with again.

Craig calls it "classic Viennese with a modern twist", and he thought it was delightful. Len loved the rotation and the movement around the floor, and tells Laila to bring this confidence and joy into her Latin dances. Alesha says they're a great partnership in ballroom - it was a touch skippy for her at times, but she loved it. Bruno says they're back in the comfort zone - Alesha was right, there are a few skips, but as Len said, this is the sort of performance they need to be bringing to their Latin, it's no good just doing it in ballroom.

In the House of Tesstosterone, we learn that they're the only couple to train on Sunday. "Swot!" someone shouts. Tess claims that Anton thought it might get a 10, and that these are "bold words from a man who's never actually had one". Man, Tess is really snarky tonight. I kind of like it. Scores: eights from everyone except Len, who awards it a nine, for a total of 33.

Phil and Katya are next, and the VT reminds us that Phil's bot-shaking was not so popular with the judges any more. Phil thinks that Rear of the Year is just around the corner. Katya is kicking ass in rehearsals for their tango - she wants him to be aggressive and pick her up. Seriously, Ola Jordan has nothing on this woman when it comes to single-minded badassery in dance tuition. Incidentally, did anyone else know that Katya played a hooker in a recent episode of Supernatural? I totally didn't know until I found her credit on IMDB.

Their tango is to 'Back To Black', and the band get around the "kept his dick wet" line by pilfering a lyric from the second verse instead. Cunning! I actually rather like this - mostly because Katya is being AWESOME, but Tuffers isn't actually too bad either. Katya grins at the end, so perhaps he's done well this time.

Bruno is happy that Phil did a dance full of content with no gimmicks, though he still needs to work on refinement. Craig thought it was a risk doing a tango to a lyrical piece of music like that, because it could either work or backfire, and he thinks it did both. Eh? How does that work? Apparently it worked because it added choreographic drama, but it also caused them to rise and fall. "We've been working on that," Katya admits. Len busts out another sporting analogy about walking to the crease from the pavilion being just the beginning of cricket, just like learning the routine is just the beginning of dance, and tells Phil that he needs to work on refining, and put more hours in. Alesha says that it's a character dance, and that was a tricky routine, but she liked it.

They arrive in the House of Tesstosterone, and Katya is very proud of Phil. Phil says it was hard not to smile - but in response to Len's criticism, says that there are only so many hours in the day they can do. Katya is asked how Phil compares to Antonio Banderas, with whom she tangoed in a film once, and she says that Phil is sexier. Of course. Scores: Craig 7, Len 7, Alesha 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 30. Katya is ecstatic. That's Phil's highest score to date, by the way.

Finally, Ricky and Natalie have a quickstep for us. The VT mentions his mistakes from last week that Bruno called him up on. Natalie says that Ricky has been working hard this week, and Ricky's all "MY DAD TAUGHT ME TO WORK HARD". His dad is in the VT, talking about how he was in the RAF and so was very big on discipline, and continues to call Ricky "Richard". Hee.

Ricky's quickstep is to 'Down With Love' and it's a very impressive performance indeed - if I were the quibbling sort, I'd say it could do with a tad more control, but it certainly delivers on the speed front, which is very impressive. They even end it on the stage and everything.

Len calls it "the best dance of series seven". Alesha says that Ricky was in a league of his own, and that it was "magic". Bruno yells "THIS IS STRICTLY COME DANCING IN TOP GEAR!" and points out that Ricky never went wrong. Craig says "bandy-legs and pigeon toes...that's never stopped Brendan Cole from dancing." Damn, that is COLD. Luckily Brendan appears to be seeing the funny side in the audience. It was, he says, "uh-may-zing".

There's a standing ovation in the House of Tesstosterone. Ricky says that everyone's been amazing tonight, and that to receive any compliment is wonderful. Scores: nine from Craig, and then three tens for a total of 39. Tess points out that it's a near-perfect score, and Natalie, bless her, says that it means they've still got something to work on for next week.

Final leaderboard, including a final correction regarding Craig and Flavia's score (IT WAS 24, ALRIGHT?): Ricky and Natalie at the top, Jade and Ian second, then Laila and Anton tying with Ali and Brian, then Zöe and James, then Phil and Katya tying with Natalie and Vincent, then Chris and Ola, and then Ricky and Erin and Craig and Flavia tying at the bottom. So, lots of ties, essentially.

The phone lines open to the sound of cheers, and we're treated to a recap of the evening's performances. Afterwards, Len is asked why everyone's so keen to get to Blackpool, and aside from "because they've worked out a way to guarantee a fairly reliable source of support from the public for a few weeks", Len says that it's what Lord's is to cricket and Wembley is to football - Blackpool is the Mecca of dancing. Len has danced there himself many times, but would not care to share his scores.

We join Tess and the celebs in the House of Tesstosterone. Ricky is still speechless following his scores, and had to hit himself in the face to make himself believe it. Craig will be devastated if he doesn't get through, but he feels he gave his best dance tonight. Ricky G thought he did well, but reasons that you never can tell with this competition. Indeed.

To kill some time, here are Darren, Lilia, Aliona, Matthew, Vincent and Flavia doing a cha cha cha with a Moulin Rouge flavour, performed to En Vogue's 'My Lovin''. All of the performances are great, but Vincent and Flavia's in particular is a masterpiece of gymnastics, although Aliona catapaulting herself onto Matthew's shoulders from a handstand is almost as impressive. I'm starting to think she should come back next year after all, actually. They stand on the judges' table during the breakdown (at which point Alesha strokes Aliona's calves admiringly, heh) before taking back to the floor and ending in similarly improbable positions. I'm so jealous.

After that we get a 'behind the scenes' segment that really seems more suited to It Takes Two but is fairly interesting, I suppose. I'm not being lazy by not recapping it (well, I am a little bit), but there's not anything massively surprising in it, and my fingers are tired at this point, so I tend to ignore as much non-essential material as I think I can get away with.

After that, we're back in the House of Tesstosterone again to catch up with everyone else, talking about how no one wants to see Claudia on Monday - not because of anything Claudia's done wrong, but because that would mean they'd be out. And that's it for this segment. No, seriously.

Then Matthew and Aliona do a "sizzling samba with a twist" to Ciara's 'Love Sex Magic'. I don't think you need me to tell you that there is no bloody disco in this one - it's just very energetic and a little bit filthy, actually. That's the sort of samba I want to see. None of this Saturday Night Fever business, thank you.

And then we have the Bee Gees performing 'You Should Be Dancing' - it's all a bit hard to see because Barry seems to be too far away from his microphone, but let's face it - I have no business criticising anyone who can still sing that high at his age, and so I shall just say that it's actually quite enjoyable despite a few iffy tuning moments, and the pro samba from James, Ola, Brian and Kristina that accompanies it is pretty terrific. Despite my well-documented issues with disco samba, obviously.

Oh God, there's now a montage about how everyone WANTS TO MAKE IT TO BLACKPOOL. It's the home of ballroom dancing! It's so close! It's where Craig Kelly is (sort of) from! It's where all the world champions have danced! It would be life-changing! All right, steady on.

But of course, somebody isn't going to make it that far, and it's time to find out who. First to be declared safe are Craig and Flavia (who have now MADE IT TO BLACKPOOL and can hopefully put a cork in it), next are Jade and Ian (hooray!), then Tess teases by revealing "Ricky", but waiting a few seconds before she says "Erin", and then Natalie and Vincent, then Ricky and Natalie, and then Laila and Anton. So still awaiting their fate at this point are Ali and Brian, Chris and Ola, Phil and Katya and Zöe and James, and I think we all know how this is going to end up. Phil and Katya are declared safe next, followed by Chris and Ola, so the dance-off is Ali vs Zöe.

Sidebar: well-marked women hitting the bottom two early on is not exactly a new phenomenon on this show, but it seems to be happening quite often and to quite a lot of people this year, and I wonder if the new scoring system has anything to do with it, making it easier for the people at the bottom of the leaderboard to catch up when there are so many ties, as there were tonight. Not that it makes an awful lot of difference if these high scoreres obviously lack public support, but I wonder if there'll be another rethink of the scoring system before next year. In the meantime, I'll just be sitting here blaming Tom Chambers, like I do for most things.

Tess introduces the first couple in the dance-off, Ali and Brian. Their dance-off goes pretty badly - she loses her balance after spinning around and stumbles, and the part where he lowers her down by her wrists doesn't work at all (not that it worked especially well the first time, but here it's downright awful). I think this really throws her, because she goes wrong in a minor way a few times afterwards too. Tess claims that no one expected to see either couple in the dance-off, which is bollocks, because I would've put money on Zöe being in the dance-off this week if I were in the habit of making unsympathetic wagers.

Zöe and James reprise their samba, which goes marginally better than Ali and Brian's dance-off did and makes me wonder for a second if Ali and Brian will be leaving us in a SHOCK BOOT, but there are some timing issues on display here.

Naturally, the judges are up in arms about this particular outcome: Craig points out that both couples mucked up, but he's going to save Ali and Brian. Alesha is, on the verge of tears, and wants to save both (oh Alesha, don't make me come down there), but after staring at the desk with her hands on the side of her head, mumbles that she votes to save Zöe and James. Bruno thinks it's ridiculous for either of them to be there, but votes to save Ali and Brian. Head Judge Len has the casting vote, and says that the whole thing is "ludicrous and nonsensical" (he would know), and that there are five couples who are worse than these. And, just because I never tire of saying this, those five couples were scored a minimum of seven points by Len this evening, so he's not in the best position to be pointing fingers. Anyway, he saves Ali and Brian, and Zöe runs over to hug Ali. She tells Bruce that she's had an amazing time, and that James is the best teacher, and she's sorry she couldn't get him to Blackpool. I don't think anyone needs me to say that it's far more likely to be the case that it's James who couldn't get Zöe to Blackpool, right? I mean, this is hardly out of the ordinary for him. James says that winning the trophy means everything to him, but he would never swap "this wonderful lady" for that ball. Gosh, how chivalrous.

So that's it for poor Zöe, who never stood a chance, really. Next week is Blackpool, where we'll be joined by Rod Stewart. Avril Lavigne's 'When You're Gone' is the soundtrack to Zöe and James's final dance together, and I maybe shed a little tear, and wonder how much longer they can keep wasting good female dancers on James Jordan. See you guys next week for Blackpool, which is where everyone JUST WANTS TO MAKE IT TO, lest we forget.


phollie_s said...

Lennox Lewis was probably there cause he uses the same Gym, her probably came in to throw them out then saw the cameras and decided he could do with the air time. or maybe he's a secret corrie fan.

Essen said...

It's that time of the series, isn't it? When tiresome Len starts yelling about how it's a DANCING competition and how HARD it is being (paid squillions to be) a judge.

As you so rightly point out, if he wants more space between the brilliant and the crap, why doesn't he give the crap 4/5 and the good 9/10 and the middlers 6/7. Then the table would be more spread out and it would be harder for good-but-unpopular to slip down into the bottom two.

I feel sorry for Zoe. I think that with, say, Matthew or Darren she'd have done much better. She seems a bit shy and unconfident (though hiding it fairly well) but her personality never came across and she was always struggling against the 'James is a massive tosser' problem.

ros said...

I have always thought that converting judges points into a 1-10 scores is ridiculous. Much better to rank the audience vote on a 1-40 scale and then combine the two.

effy said...

I don't understand why people think James is a tosser? Really! I don't understand, I'm not British, I've only watched Series 5-6. What's going on? I think James is a superb Latin dancer, an excellent teacher technique wise an does good choreography in a sense that he could show himself off inumerous times and he always chose to enphasise his celebrity partners. And most of all,does not rely on pity VTs.
By the way, I agree on everything said here about bloody-chauvinist-pig-Len.

Carrie said...

James wasn't too bad last year but his first series he spent shouting at his partner Georgina Bouzova because she was too fat, and she was in tears most of the time. And then Gabby Logan wasn't the best partner for him as their mutual over-competitiveness did not make for good viewing, and he proved that he is not a good loser. Anyway, he has not rehabilitated himself.

ht said...

1. Ricky and Natalie's quickstep was MORE annoying than Tom "Tap Dance" Chambers in the Series That Never Happened. Could tehy BE any more smug?!

2. Matthew and Aliona - are they seeing each other? I thought he was still married to Nicole, but that kiss at the end of their samba...

3. Quelle surprise, James is the downfall of another good female dancer. Shame, since I really like him (esp. when he dances with Ola), but there you go.

sally3195 said...

So apparently Len thinks "constructive criticism" means "telling us how HARD the rumba is for a MAN yet again." Seriously? 8?

I suspect James is going to make the most of his It Takes Two appearance by shouting at the public about how they are STUPID AND WRONG AND HE HATES THEM like he did last year. Because that went down so well.

Did you notice Ali did her dance-off in ballet slippers rather than the heels she wore first time round? Probably explains some of the stumbling.

CCB said...

So much to discuss this week, and another cracking blog - thanks for writing through the pain, guys.

"Blackpool" has become the new "toughest strictly ever", and is equally annoying. At least it must end next week, mustn't it?

Every couple should be visited by a much bigger celebrity, like Lennox Lewis, so the professional can have a Bullseye-style "look at what you could have won".

Len needs a good talking to vis-a-vis his criticism of the other judges, it's not at all pleasant to watch and makes him look very conceited. You could see in Craig's eyes that he understood this when he began to remonstrate with Len and then just sat back and let it go. Craig is fast becoming my favourite judge, with his consisent and reasonable scoring and superb blend of campery and menace.

The judges' annual rant at the public was met by my annual rant at the judges for complaining about having to do their job, as dictated by the rules set out at the beginning of the competition. I was especially disappointed in Alesha as she's never had to do any different. In any case the public's judgement isn't too bad given that their total control over the outcome has always resulted in the best, or at least a perfectly worthy, couple winning the show, hasn't it?

effy said...

Thanks, Carrie. That explains A LOT! This hate towards James should be over by now, but that is just me as I thought he had every right to be upset last year in the whole John Sergeant's train wrech thing. And the public doesn't seen to mind Vincent cheating on his pregnant girlfriend with Kristina Rihanoff.
I'm very curious in how Darcey Bussell is going to behave into that crazy desk, but I would love to see Karen Hardy as a jugde instead.
Thank guys for the awesome recaps and comments.

Carrie said...

I think if James was actually actively nice, he may be able to reclaim his reputation. But he started off nasty and has never been able to recover from it.

Steve said...

Gosh, so many comments this week! I shall address the ones that needed replies that Carrie hasn't already taken care of - to everyone else, thank you for reading and commenting and I promise I am not ignoring you, honest.

ros - I don't know this for sure, but I've heard that on Dancing With The Stars, they use a system where the points for both the judges' scores and the public vote are done in terms of a percentage formed by their share of the total amount of points awarded, if that makes sense. I don't know if that's true, but it seems like a much more sensible idea that the quasi-Eurovision style they have at the moment which clearly isn't working.

ht - I don't believe Matthew and Aliona are seeing each other, no. I don't really want to get drawn into the details of why not, but I believe it's fairly common knowledge that his marriage to Nicole was one of convenience so she could stay in the country.

sally3195 - Good catch on Ali and her ballet slippers. I thought there was something different about her feet in the dance-off but couldn't put my finger on precisely what, and didn't mention it in the recap in case I was just seeing things. But that would explain a lot!

CCB - The public vote has never let a total clunker win thus far, though I would say that Darren Gough was the least apt of the three celebs in the series three finale.

effy - I want Karen on the judging panel too. In fact, they can make her Head Judge if it'll shut Len up.

Carrie said...

Also, just in case anyone was unclear, NEXT WEEK they will be dancing IN BLACKPOOL.

Essen said...

As I was one of those saying James is a tosser - it's not just that he's been horrid to his partners in the past, it's that he's always extremely ungracious on ITT after he's been voted out. He nearly always has a little tantrum and throws his toys out the pram, which I find irritating ;)

ros said...

Steve, that sounds like an excellent scoring system. I could never bear to watch DWTS in the US - way too many ad breaks for me. Also, though you're right about Darren Gough, that was ALL ERIN'S FAULT for giving Colin Jackson such a crap showdance that no one could possibly vote for him.

ros said...

Oh and by the way, does anyone happen to know where they will be dancing this Saturday?

Carrie said...

Ros, DwtS is amazing if you watch it on Sky+ (which I ALWAYS do) cos then you can fast-forward the ads. Also, sometimes they don't have Len!

ht said...

I concur: Karen for the judging panel would be great.
Now if we can just make Anton the new Brucie, make the "Strictly Singers" the set that they use on the live tour, and find someone to replace Tess, we'll be getting somewhere! Too much to ask?! ;)

Back on Planet Earth, thanks for the clarification Steve (I am clearly behind on Matthew/Nicole).