Last week on Strictly Come Dancing, Tess's VO intones gravely, the line-up was "a little short". Can you guess what's coming next? Of course you can: a shot of Ronnie Corbett. I'm still trying to decide whether the utter predictability of the gags on this show is cosy and reassuring or just plain lazy. Anyway, Bruce was off with flu, Jade was off with a knee injury, and Laila attempted her rumba despite an ankle issue but couldn't quite manage to finish. Zounds!
This week, the remaining couples are fighting it out to stay in the competition. Everyone discusses how it's getting intense, in much the same way as they have been doing for about the past two months. Jade is pictured doing her bit of narrative in a grey room, as opposed to one of the usual training arenas. I probably should've known that was a bad sign. Anyway, this is Strictly Come Dancing, recorded last night and recapped by an admittedly biased guy on the internet! Yeah, that doesn't sound as catchy.
Post-titles, we're live in London, and Bruce's entrance earns huge cheers and applause. [Not from me. - Carrie] Tess's does not, for she is wearing some ungodly beige one-shoulder number that just washes her right out. Sigh - and she's been doing so well this year, too.
Tess welcomes Bruce back as the audience continue to cheer - and then the cheering abruptly cuts out. Hmmm. Either someone in the sound booth accidentally leant on the fader a little bit too soon, or they've been piping in that audience appreciation all this time! I just don't know any more. Chris Moyles is in the audience. Cunt. Sorry, just had to get that off my chest. Bruce chatters excitedly about last week's drama, like Ronnie Corbett nearly falling down the stairs. Oh, and the two seriously injured dancers. Having listed the many things that were unusual last week, Bruce reveals he was glad when Craig gave one couple a three, because it proved he wasn't hallucinating. I'd roll my eyes at this, except my boyfriend and I watched last week's show after going for some drinks with friends, and we did start to look at each other about halfway through all, "seriously, how drunk are we? Is this even happening?" Bruce then thanks Ronnie for filling in last week. No one thanks Claudia, of course, because it's not real work when women do it.
The couples are introduced: the first-names only thing from last week continues [and no occupations either - Carrie], and it's still weird and I still don't know why they've suddenly started doing it this way. Anyway, Ricky and Erin are here, along with Chris and Ola, Natalie and Vincent, Ricky and Natalie, Ali and Brian, and finally Laila and Anton. And at this point, every Jade fan in the country who'd been on tenterhooks the whole week in anticipation of some good news finally let their breath out and said, "Well, shit".
And so Bruce confirms that Jade will not be dancing tonight, following medical advice. That leads us into another explanatory VT of last week's injury, hand how everyone thought everything was fine until she tried to get up from her finishing position and her knee went RATATATBANG, or whatever happened, and then Jade went very pale and shivery and it was all very horrible. In a cold grey room, Jade VTs that you don't realise how much you want something until it's taken from you. She explains that following her scan on Monday, she was informed that she had a Grade 2 tear on one of the ligaments in her knee, and she spent the rest of the week in and out of physio. Come Friday, she still didn't know: the last that we heard was that her physio said yes, while the BBC physio was saying no, and clearly, the BBC physio won. And I suppose that makes sense, because the BBC doesn't want an insurance headache on its hands if Jade dances tonight and someone worsens her injury. But still: my heart is a little bit broken right now, and if that's how I'm feeling, I can't even begin to contemplate what this must be like for Jade - or indeed Ian. Jade says she's had a wonderful time, and she's really going to miss it.
And then Tess is in the audience with Ian and Jade. Tess asks Jade how she's feeling, and while Jade's face doesn't give anything away, the hesitation before she speaks suggests to me that she's trying hard not to cry. She keeps it together, though - she admits that seeing the VT made it really hard for her, and her knee is sore, but she's fine. Ian says that they've grown very close, and Jade's grown as a dancer and a person. There are several mentions of Jade's JOURNEY, and finally there is some good news: Tess asks Jade, if she is recovered in time, if she'd be willing to come back and dance her tango in the final. Jade consents, and the audience cheers. And that's the end of Jade's Strictly Come Dancing JOURNEY, and man, it must really suck to go out like that. And I really thought we might survive an entire series without anyone pulling out this year. So this means either a non-elimination week ahead, or the dreaded two-person finale (and if I were a betting man, I'd suggest it'll be Ricky vs. Chris).
Bruce says it's an awful way to start, that Jade will be missed, and that she was a possible finalist. Which is nice and all, but everyone is a possible finalist - that's kind of how these shows work. I mean, at one point Richard Dunwoody was a possible finalist. Anyway, the show must, and indeed does, go on: the first couple to dance tonight are Ali and Brian. Last week Ali tried very hard to be raunchy for her cha cha cha (she did?), but was found wanting in that area, though her dancing itself was very good. Claudia's raccoon voice (yay!) reappears in the VT, and Ali says that she must keep working hard because everyone else is coming back fighting. They're dancing the foxtrot this week, and she and Brian are rather enjoying it. Ali suggests they do a "naughty Foxtrot" (DO A LIFT! SAY BUMHOLE! ADMIT THAT WHEN YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE IN THE HOUSE OF TESSTOSTERONE YOU'RE SECRETLY OFF WATCHING THE X FACTOR!) and promptly mucks around a lot in rehearsals, much to Brian's consternation. Then they start to take it seriously, and Ali promises to come out and be graceful.
Apparently she has to leave directly after this to attend an audition for the Hollywood blockbuster remake of I Dream of Jeannie (starring Zac Efron as Larry Hagman), if her outfit is anything to go by. They're dancing to 'Haven't Met You Yet' by Michael Bublé, [yay! Mickey Bubbles! - Carrie] and it's choreographically reminiscent of quite a lot of their other ballroom routines, but what's most noteworthy about it is that Ali is literally shaking quite a lot of the way through.
The volume of the audience cheering fluctuates quite a bit at the end of this routine as well, so I can only assume tonight's sound operator is an embittered Jade fan who's determined to take the show down from the inside at any cost. Bruce welcomes back the singers and orchestra, and so on, and the lovely judges. I'm not sure what the hell is going on with Bruno's jacket tonight - it's two tone and looks like it has some kind of pawprint motif. Is this fashion? I have no idea. Where's Hadley Freeman when you need her?
Bruce asks Alesha to start us off, and she says it was a beautiful opening, and that one again they've made a difficult dance look easy. Her only criticism is that Ali needs to elongate her stride on the backward steps just to accentuate the difference between the slow and the quick movements (Alesha technical criticism score out of ten: 8.5) and she thinks they're the frontrunners. Bruno says Ali produces moments of sheer bliss, and her arms are some of the best he's ever seen. He's concerned, though, that sometimes she tightens up a bit, which stops her embracing the full range of the dance. He thinks she's good, but she could be better. Craig saw her nerves, and noticed her foot got stuck on the floor and stepped on Brian's "left toe" - "which one?" interjects Bruce, who's on form tonight after his week off - but he thought the dance itself was gorgeous. Ali says that she really felt she was enjoying it tonight, and then - I don't know if Bruce is saying that he thought she looked nervous or whether he's just confirming that Craig thought that, but either way: Bruce says she was nervy. Len says that if that dance was a pudding, it would be an Angel Delight (not suitable for those with a lactose intolerance?) - there were a few slips, but he thought it was very nice overall.
They sprint to the House of Tesstosterone, which has been reclaimed from Claudia's clutches, and Tess says that Ali puts the fox into foxtrot. Tess says that their last ballroom got a perfect score of 40, and asks if they think they can repeat that tonight. Ali's about to say "clearly not" before Brian goes into super damage limitation mode and says that he hopes so and that he really hopes the British public know how hard she works and how much it means to them to be there. Someone's anticipating having to do that dance again before the night is out, I feel. Scores: Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35. Ali takes the opportunity to quickly wish her Auntie Joan a happy 80th birthday. Aww.
Natalie and Vincent are next. Bruce does another joke about Vincent's height and the audience laughs too soon. Natalie was thrilled last week by her (overly-generous) score and decided there and then that she wanted to win. Lord knows what she was doing prior to that. Since she's back at work on EastEnders now, Natalie takes Vincent to look at Albert Square, though I find it hard to believe Louisa never showed him around at any point. Vincent asks her if she can get him in EastEnders - Natalie bargains that if he gets her to the final, then she will. Some cast members wish them luck, and Natalie says that the visit gave her a real boost. They sit on the Arthur Fowler Memorial Bench Of Sudsy Sorrow and hope not to be eliminated this week.
They're dancing a samba to Madonna's 'Holiday', and I suppose I should be grateful that it isn't a disco routine, but it's a pretty woeful samba, since she has no hip movement whatsoever, and indeed barely even seems to be dancing at all sometimes. Craig says that he was distracted by her mouth hanging open like a Venus flytrap, but he thought the routine was just okay - it lacked bounce and the content was lame, but he thinks Natalie is endearing and very watchable. Len says he didn't notice the mouth because he was looking at the feet (funny, at one point I could've sworn they were in the same place), and that Natalie messed up one of her simple steps, and "success went to your head or something", which is an oddly cutting remark, considering it's Len. Vincent attempts to salvage the situation by saying that it's the only time she's ever got it wrong, and Natalie tells him that it doesn't matter, since she's done it now. I know it's meant to be banter and everything, but I'm rather uneasy with the way Natalie seems to consider Vincent's opinion to be of such little worth. I'm probably getting antsy over nothing at all, but on the heels of the "you're ALWAYS here" comment from last week, I find myself wondering if Natalie can find a way of expressing herself that isn't quite so condemning of Vincent (who, may I say, really does pull off his hot pink shirt impressively well). Len continues by complaining that so much of the routine was in hold, and lost exuberance as a result. Alesha says it was fun and colourful, and that there's never a dull moment with Natalie - however, she agrees with some of Craig's comments, that it could've had more bounce and she sometimes looks down too much. Alesha then segues into a reminiscence of how the samba was her least favourite dance, and Natalie starts talking over her quite loudly in agreement. Natalie: I know it's only Alesha, but could you at least try to actually listen to her feedback? She might actually be saying something useful. Anyway, when Alesha is allowed to be heard again, she says she thinks Natalie did a good job. Bruno thinks it was more Bournemouth than Brazil - her weight was often in the wrong place, and she was often out of time. "Bournemouth would be lucky to have you!" interjects Alesha, for no real reason, and Bruno chuckles that they probably won't have him now he's said that. [She was telling NATALIE that Bournemouth would be lucky to have her. Still, heaven forfend that this show isn't all about the judges. - Carrie]
In the House of Tesstosterone, Natalie says she knew the samba would be technically hard, and it's a cursed dance because it claimed her BFF Zöe. Tess says she looks pretty in pink, and Vincent, channeling Ian, thanks Tess, and says he has to make sure people can see him because he's little. Heh. Tess asks if they can beat last week's score, and Natalie's all "bitch, please". Scores: Craig 6, Len 7, Alesha 8, Bruno 5 for a total of 26. "Probably one of your lowest totals in the competition," says Tess, who apparently can't be arsed to check. (I can, incidentally: it's her lowest score since her first week in the competition, when she got 24 for her tango and 26 for her cha cha cha.)
Chris and Ola are next, and despite the terrible fate that befell Arlene in similar circumstances, Bruce decides to make a "Pole dancer" joke. The VT tries to disguise that only Alesha liked last week's paso doble, and Chris is looking forward to doing ballroom again. Chris is struggling to learn his steps. "This is not a rocket science!" Ola admonishes. Heh. Ola then drags in some child ballerinas to help him out, though quite what she expects to achieve by this, I don't entirely understand. Unless she's hoping people at home see them and go "CUTE!" and then don't notice what happens for the next two minutes.
They're dancing a Viennese waltz to 'A New Day Has Come' by Celine Dion, and the choreography is rather nice, with Ola doing some Rachel Stevens-style resting her head on Chris's shoulder, though Chris's footwork is a little leaden at times. At the end, Bruce asks Chris if he's finding this easier than football or cricket, and Chris says he likes the hugs in this more than he does in the football. Homophobe! Bruno thinks Chris is doing better, and led with confidence, and even his face was under control this week. Craig found it a little tight of shoulder, and he thinks that Chris is wearing the tension on his face, and needs to smile more. "I have a friend at Harley Street," Craig offers. Heh! Len thought this might not be Chris's dance, but he thought he came out with confidence, and his pivots got a great reaction from the studio audience. Alesha says he can pivot well, but there were too many in the dance - she felt there was something lacking, and she didn't feel the romance. His facial expression was clinical, and it felt like lots of different sections stuck together with no binding fairydust. Oh my God: ALERT, ALERT. ALESHA HAS OVERWRITTEN HER PROGRAMMING. GET A TECHNICIAN DOWN HERE, NOW! It's a bit unfortunate that when she actually decides not to be all silver-lining about something, she criticises the person widely suspected to be leading the public vote. Then again, perhaps she thinks that she's never going to be accepted by the viewers and she might as well just say whatever the hell she likes, and I'm not so sure she's wrong. ANYway, Chris is alarmed by Alesha doing her stern face, and scurries back to the protective arms of Tess.
Chris says that he never expected to get this far, and that they felt BLACKPOOL was their turning point, so they're hoping they can stay in it. Scores: Craig 7, Len 8, Alesha 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 29. I love how Alesha's and Bruno's comments were so wildly different and yet their scores were the same.
Halfway leaderboard: Ali is top, Chris is second, Natalie is third. That's it.
Ricky and Natalie are on next. Bruce blathers on about BLACKPOOL for a bit, and to no great purpose, and then we get to the training VT at long last. Ricky's auntie Carol was there last week, and thinks he's brilliant. This week they're doing the American smooth, and Natalie warns that she doesn't want mediocre lifts, she wants crowdpleasing ones. Ricky is unsure that he can get the hang of this dance, but he wants to do his auntie proud. I'm so glad there was a "proud" on the end of that sentence, because otherwise...ew.
Their routine is to 'Over The Rainbow', and I'm quite surprised by their dance - since the American smooths on this show are usually all about being showy and really crowdpleasing, and this dance is...nice but boring. I guess I just expected more, somehow. And then one of the lifts basically involves Ricky lifting Natalie over his head, strongman-style. And sure, it's impressive from a physics point of view, but I didn't think it fitted the dance at all - they'd cultivated this air of quiet, introverted romance with the choreography and then this just came out of nowhere, and didn't seem to me to fit the story they were telling in any way. That said, he holds her up like that for a good ten seconds, so bravo to both of them for pulling it off. [FNAR. - Carrie]
Bruce clarifies for the record that Natalie was not on a wire when Ricky lifted her, and then Len says that Ricky didn't up his game this week, but neither did he lower his standards. He thought the whole number was gorgeous, but it was like Leonardo da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa and sticking a moustache on the end - he doesn't understand why they did that "stupid great big lift", which was completely incongruous. Oh God - I agree with Len. Someone take me out to pasture now. Len was disappointed, because it was disappointed - that sort of thing should be left for the finale (IF THEY'RE THERE, he says), and shouldn't wreck such a lovely dance. Alesha thinks every woman would like the opportunity to be lifted up like that, and it shows a lot of trust between the two of them. She thought it was gentle, understated, and absolutely beautiful, a showstopper. Bruno calls him "the romantic soul with the strength of Samson", and Ricky rubs the back of his head as if to remind us that he doesn't have any hair. Bruno advises him to watch his arm placement, which is a slight point, "but at this stage we have to - even as good as you are, everybody has something to do." Craig agrees with Bruno, but he thinks Ricky is the first celebrity man to lead and add swing and sway, and he loved the lift, and there's a "yay!" at this which I can't tell whether it comes from Natalie or Alesha, but if it's the latter, well: poor form. Len clarifies that he loved the lift itself, but it didn't fit the dance. "You're dull!" Craig chides. And then Len calls Craig a "donut" and refuses to argue any more.
Backstage, the pros are all being very supportive of The Lift, and Natalie admits that she knew Len wasn't going to like it, but she wanted to do a performance for the people at home. Well, this Person At Home had the same reaction as Len, so I'm not entirely sure what her point is here. Ricky clarifies that they knew this was their only chance to do a lift outside of the final, and they couldn't guarantee they would get there. Scores: Craig 9, Len 8, Alesha 10, Bruno 9 for a total of 36.
Next are Laila and Anton. After Anklegate last week, Laila feels like she has something to prove. She says she would've kicked herself if she hadn't tried, and she got really upset, because she was convinced she was going home. She really appreciates the public support, but she has survivor's guilt over Ricky and Tuffers being in the dance-off. This week, she's got the go-ahead to dance, but they've only been able to do two days' training because of her injury. She's feeling better, but it's still painful and she knows she just has to work through it all.
They're dancing a waltz to a song called 'Fascination' (not the Alphabeat one that Jade and Ian did their quickstep to, just to clarify). It's quite nice - very gentle (I suppose possibly more through necessity than anything else) and involving lots of pivoting. Bruno says that despite That Mistake There, which they will have to take into account, it was good, though her posture was not. Craig didn't think she was following Anton - she was more of a hindrance than a help. It wasn't her best dance, but a miraculous recovery under the circumstances. Len says she hasn't had enough time to practice which explains the lack of finesse (at which point the ghost of Kelly Brook appears behind him and gives him a wedgie), but she did spectacularly well all things considered. Alesha says she had high expectations, and that Laila's posture wasn't right, which she thought they would've sorted out by now, but she was very pleasantly surprised that they got all the way through it, but she'd like to see Laila work a little bit harder so she can really show them what she's made of.
House of Tesstosterone: Laila says that they've only had about six and a half hours training, and she's not great at learning routines, so she's surprised they even made it through, and Anton's mid-way through saying something complimentary when Tess cuts him off with a sharp "SCORESAREIN". Snerk. Craig awards it 6, Len 8, Alesha 7 and Bruno 8 for a total of 29. Tess points out that this is their lowest ballroom score so far, and Anton's all "yeah, thanks for the reminder."
And finally, it's Ricky Groves (with some stubble, looking like Ming the Merciless, while Erin is bedecked in some hideous purple fringed number that makes her look like the unholy result of someone splicing the genes of the Honey Monster with a bag of pickled onion Monster Munch). Ricky was in the dance-off last week, but is determined to avoid it with this week's tango. He didn't expect to be saved over Phil and Katya, and says he's going to come out fighting this week - before having a lovely meta moment of acknowledging he says that every week. He is lacklustre in rehearsals, so Erin gets all Miss Whiplash on him, and basically shouts him through the routine. This may not have been the best strategy, as we're about to see.
They're dancing to 'U Got The Look', which is an odd choice. Also odd: Erin's choreography for this routine, which is not all that exciting. Although, in all fairness to Erin, Ricky goes wrong quite early in the routine and then has to be steered through the rest of it, so it's entirely possible that what we saw wasn't quite what Erin had laid down for him. Erin puts her arms around him at the end, and it's clear from his face that he messed up. As they walk over to the judges' desk, Ricky is clearly frustrated with what happened, and stamps his foot. Bruce comments that he thought there was a paso doble happening behind him. Heh.
Len is asked if this performance proved he was right to save Ricky from the dance-off last week. Len replies that Ricky deserved to win the dance-off, but tonight's performance had too many mistakes in it, and he kept going wrong. Ricky speaks up: "It's a dance competition after all, and if you make mistakes, you've got to go. Maybe it's my time to go, I don't know." Alesha says she feels bad for him - she'd have scored him higher if it hadn't been for the mistakes (well, yes) and she thought he came out with determination considering his lack of success in recent weeks. Bruno says that Ricky is a gentleman for what he said, and that Alesha is right: he wanted to do it so badly, but it ended up very badly. Craig concludes that there were "mistakes galore" and it was sterile and mechanical all the way through even without that, which he thinks is rather sad. Ricky asserts that if he's in the dance-off this week he'll get it right, and then runs off too soon, so Bruce has to call him back and tell him that he's his favourite.
In the House of Tesstosterone, Ricky still looks very unhappy. He confesses that the first couple of steps went through, which threw him, and then he mucked up. He says that if he deserves to go in the dance-off, then he will, and he can try to get it right. Credit to him, he is behaving very responsibly about this, though I'd hazard that if a woobielicious display like this can't keep him out of the dance-off, then nothing can. Scores: Craig 5, Len 6 (ouch), Alesha 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 22.
Final leaderboard: Ricky and Natalie at the top, then Ali and Brian, then a tie between Chris and Ola and Laila and Anton, then Natalie and Vincent, and then Ricky and Erin at the bottom. The phonelines open for 15 whole minutes. I throw a vote in for Ali and Brian, since Jade isn't there any more and I thought they were in danger this week, and Ali's probably my favourite celebrity now that Jade's gone, but I don't even like her that much. Sigh.
Recap: Ali's shaky foxtrot, Natalie's rigid samba, Chris's pleasing Viennese waltz, Ricky W's LIFT LIFT LOOK AT MY LIFT American smooth, Laila's 100% completion bonus waltz and Ricky G's entirely made up on the spot tango.
Tess asks Ricky Whittle how he's feeling to be top, and he is very excited he didn't drop Natalie. So is the show's insurance underwriter, who probably hasn't slept all week with all the Jade drama. Ricky Groves doesn't know if the viewers will save him from the dance-off, but vows to go out fighting if they don't. Natalie is worried that she's slid back down the leaderboard, so she's going to try to climb back up.
To kill time while the phone lines are open, Darren and Lilia are going to do a swing routine to 'Wild Young Hearts' by the Noisettes, which involves a lot of kicking and throwing Lilia around. If you've not seen swing dancing before, just imagine a clown doing the jive, and that should give you some idea. It's fun, but a little relentless, which makes me fear for the celebrities who have to do it next week. (Spoiler!)
Bruce is with the judges, and asks Alesha why Ricky got a ten. She says that all the elements came together - music, choreography and chemistry, and she got carried away watching it. Bruno is asked who he'd put his money on "in lira", except Italy hasn't used lira since 2002. Finger on the pulse as ever, Bruce! Bruno wants to split it between Ali and Ricky - which confuses Bruce, who thought he meant that he wanted to see Ali Bastian dancing with Ricky Whittle, and then Bruno admits that he would quite like to see that anyway. Heh. Craig is asked who disappointed him, "apart from Len". Snerk. He says Ricky and Erin, and says that it's awful when something goes wrong from the beginning and you can't get it back. He adds that it's something they've all been through - "well, I haven't, but I'm sure Bruno and the others have." Hee! I can't speak for Bruno, but we all know Alesha has some experience of what it's like when you can't get it back:
God, I love that song.
Len is asked what he thinks of the standard this series, and he thinks it has had peaks and troughs throughout, and he doesn't think tonight was a great night, though he thinks Ricky and Ali have the potential to go all the way. He thinks the dynamic's changed because "dear Jade" has had to withdraw and he thinks she's the main one who was chasing them, and the rest of them need to buck their ideas up. I'm sure I don't remember the judges being anything like as enthusiastic about Jade when she was still here. You don't know what you got 'til it's gone, I suppose. (Shoo-bop-bop-bop-bop. Shoo-bop-bop-bop.) Then he tries to restate his point and says Laila's name instead of Ali's, and Alesha has to correct him. Heh.
Then BEST NEWS EVER: there are to be two new dances next week, either a rock 'n' roll style dance, or (wait for it) the Charleston. Yippee! I have been dying for them to include the Charleston as a competitive dance on this show ever since I saw this:
(I know she's not technically very good, but isn't that choreography awesome?)
VT time: the judges are very very excited about the new dances. The Charleston takes us back to the roaring '20s, and is quirky and full of character. The girls will be saucy flapper girls, and it's a fun and silly dance. And rock 'n' roll looks much like the swing demonstration that Darren and Lilia just did. It's a lot of lifting for the men, and a lot of vaulting for the women. These aren't dances for the meek and mild, Len cautions.
Tess is very excited, and reveals that Ali is doing the Charleston next week if she's still around. Ali's thrilled to have such nice comments from Alesha, but doesn't feel safe because anything can happen with the public vote. And that's it from the House of Tesstosterone. Damn, that was quick.
After a fleeting It Takes Two trailer, Bruce is out front again (Jade is behind him - hi Jade! We miss you already!) and introduces a rumba from the professional dancers. They're dancing to 'Frozen' by Madonna and bathed in eerie blue light. The dancing is lovely, but the white and black outfits they're all wearing makes it look a bit like a GCSE Drama practical presentation about saying no to drugs, or something. The lines close in the middle of this, incidentally.
Bruce stammers through the whole "the lines are closed, if you're the sort of idiot who calls now your vote won't be counted and you may still be charged" bit, and then attempts to introduce "Dame Shirley Bally". Oh dear. However, this is all made up for by a little skit in which Bruce attempts to talk to her in her dressing room, where Dame Shirley is wearing a fierce (faux?) fur hat. Bruce says that he enjoyed her duet with Dizzee Rascal on the Children in Need concert, and asks if they can do a duet. And at this, Dame Shirley pulls Dizzee's phone number OUT OF HER CLEAVAGE and gives it to Bruce. Amazing.
And then Dame Shirley sings her new single, written by Gary out of Take That, and the song itself is okay, I guess, but I'm not really paying that much attention because it's DAME SHIRLEY BASSEY, and who cares what she's singing? She is THERE, and that is all I care about. Ian and Natalie dance to her song, and Natalie's hairdo goes all fluffy halfway through from all the twirling around, which is quite funny.
Finally, it is time to reveal the couples who are safe. In no particular order, they are: Chris and Ola, Ali and Brian, Ricky....and Natalie (I love how they brace themselves while waiting for the second name, and it's SO cruel to keep them hanging on, but also brilliant) and Natalie and Vincent ("Mamma Mia!" Vincent exclaims). So the dance-off this week is between Laila and Ricky.
Laila and Anton are on first with a reprise of their waltz. I think they're a little improved this time around, as it seems a wee bit more fluid, and Laila does appear to be making an attempt to sort her posture out. Ricky and Erin attempt their tango a second time, and he is looking very determined, and there don't seem to be any serious mistakes second time around, but as tangos go, it is a little bit limp.
Laila and Anton return to the dancefloor to join them, and after the usual explanation of how the judges' votes work, it is time for those votes to be cast. None of the judges waste much time explaining their decisions, but Craig, Alesha and Bruno all vote to keep Laila and Anton, so it's third time unlucky for Ricky and Erin. Len is asked what his vote would've been, and he says that although Ricky danced much better in the dance-off than previously, he would still have saved Laila.
Erin says that Ricky has been a wonderful partner, and has given it 100% (only 100? That's positively lacklustre considering the sort of percentages the contestants allegedly "give it" on The Apprentice or The X Factor). Ricky is classy in his exit and asks everyone to applaud Erin, which is rather nice.
Bruce reminds us that that the contestants will be taking on two new dances next week, either a rock 'n' roll dance ("a sort of jive") or a Charleston ("a sort of quickstep") - ahh, variety. Well, despite the absence of Jade and thus the departure of most of my interest in this series, I am very excited about the new dances, so they came in at exactly the right time. Join me next week, and we shall discover if they were worth the wait...