Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Tuf gets going

Top 8: 14th November 2009

So! Last week we were in BLACKPOOL, lest we forget, where Ali got a perfect score, and Craig Kelly was the unfortunate recipient of a Blackpool elimination (geddit?). Now we're back in stupid, smelly London, and if that feels like a bit of a come-down, well...just wait until you've seen what a hideous mess is in store for you tonight. One couple's journey ends tonight. This is Strictly Come Dancing - live! Cue titles.

You may have noticed that poor Bruce is ill with the flu, and so there are some changes to the presenting line-up tonight. Tess is here (in a cream-coloured dress that inexplicably has a shoe-shaped piece of felt attached to her right breast), and will be joined for one night only by...Ronnie Corbett? Sure, why not. Ronnie slips down the stairs, so he goes back up and walks back down again, but is too late to meet Tess in time for the orchestral flourish - nonetheless, they proceed with the finishing pose, which involves her catching his leg, just for a change. Ronnie gets a standing ovation just for being Ronnie Corbett, which is fair enough. He reports that he is there to keep an eye on things in Bruce's absence, and fulfils Bruce's contractual obligation to do the "nice to see you, to see you nice" bit. There's a gag about Ronnie helping out at "short notice", and after a few more height gags, it's time to introduce the couples.

This is the first of many things that feels off tonight: rather than introducing the couples by their full names (and the celebrity's profession), they're simply introduced by their first names: Ricky and Erin, Chris and Ola, Natalie and Vincent, Ricky and Natalie, Phil and Katya, etc. This has the unnerving effect of making everything feel very rushed, to the extent that by the time the band is wrapping up and the camera is panning down the line-up, there are only five couples in it. [I blame Tess. She gabbled this. - Carrie] Ali and Brian arrive just in time for the shot to cut away, and Laila and Anton don't even make it into the shot at all. Now, you may think "hang on a minute, that's only seven couples - where are Jade and Ian?" And you'd be right to do so, but we'll be getting to that in a minute.

"There they all are!" says Tess, ignoring the elephant not in the room (not that I'm calling Jade or Ian an elephant, obviously). [Even if their dancing did send vibrations through Len's arse last week. - Carrie] After a bit more filler about what dancers used to look like in Ronnie's day (cut to a shot of him in drag from The Two Ronnies), Tess gets to the nitty-gritty: specifically the lack of an Amazonian athlete and her professional partner. The reason for this is that Jade sustained a serious injury in this afternoon's dance rehearsal, and was told by a doctor not to participate in tonight's show - but she and Ian are backstage now, with the lovely Claudia Winkleman, who is playing Tess for one night only. I feel like I should rename the House of Tesstosterone in her honour, but I don't really know what to call it. The House of Claudacious Behaviour? No. The House of Winklemen and Women? No, that's even worse. Oh, fuck it: it always has been and always will be the House of Tesstosterone, regardless of who's currently stationed in there. Sorry, Claudia. I still love you, obviously.

Anyway, Jade and Ian are decked out for the tango, and I can't even begin to tell you how disappointed I am that we're not going to get to see it because I've been looking forward to this routine all week, but that's not really the matter of prime importance right now. Jade looks utterly crestfallen, by the way, and is pretty much on the verge of tears, while Ian is maintaining a professional persona but is, I should imagine, similarly a bit gutted. We see some footage of the dress rehearsal, where Jade is limping around at the end of the dance. Ian explains that the dance itself went fine, but he went to pick her up from the floor at the end of it and her knee popped. Jade says that she heard a loud sound in her knee, and then felt a lot of pain, and now she's panicking, as she doesn't know if she's going to be able to start training for her long jump in January. And that, right there, I think is one of the reasons I like Jade so much: as competitive as she is in this competition, she's got her priorities in order, and when something like this happens, her first concern is her actual day job and how this is going to affect it. She's upset, because she really wanted to do the tango. As we come back from the VT, Jade is crying - and I am in my living room on the verge of tears myself, because the whole thing is utterly heartbreaking. It's just as well that the ever-empathetic Claudia is managing the House of Tesstosterone today, because her condolences sound far more sincere than I imagine Tess's would've done in the same situation. Jade explains that she's had lots of injuries, of course, being an athlete, but she feels like she's letting people down by not dancing - Ian, chiefly, and also the people who've supported the two of them. She really wanted to do the dance. Ian says that she's been brilliant, and it's been a fantastic dance for Jade, but the most important thing is that Jade gets her knee better. And as a result, they are off right now to get it seen to properly. Claudia wishes Jade well, and hopes that we will see her next week - as do I, because this would be such a horrible way to go out of the competition.

Back in the studio, Tess is all "aww, poor Jade! The tango is her favourite dance!" in a cloying sort of way that confirms my earlier assertion that Claudia was the more suitable person to be interviewing an injured and distraught contestant. Further weirdness: at this point, Ronnie announces that he won't actually be helping Tess out all evening - he's done his bit and is off to sit in the audience, but he will be keeping in touch with Brucie over the evening. I don't really get that - either Ronnie should've co-presented all evening, or not at all, but it felt weird to just have him pop up randomly during the show to do things that Claudia could've easily done. [Bruce and Tess are both jealously defending their jobs. - Carrie]

Tonight's first couple are Phil and Katya, dancing an American smooth. Last week he got 28 for his rumba, and was a bit disappointed, even though Len said it was his best Latin dance. He's looking forward to being debonair in his American smooth. Continuing tonight's injury porn theme (and there's still more to come), Phil talks about his knee operation, and limps around the training room, wincing. I have visions of this show's insurance underwriter watching tonight's programme with a cold flannel over his or her head and nails bitten down to the quick, because the way things are going, you half expect all the celebrities to be leaving on crutches this week. Phil is phearful about lifting Katya, because of the extra pressure it will put on his knee - and he's nervous that Katya's mum has flown over to come and see her perform this week.

Their routine is to 'Come Fly With Me', and this isn't the most comfortable Phil has ever looked - when Katya twirls in his hand, he seems to be expecting her elebow to hit him in the face. Aside from that, though, it's a pretty decent routine - there's a plank lift in there which goes seamlessly enough, and it's all nicely elegant. Tess compliments Phil on looking so dapper, and asks after the knee: it's fine, thankfully. She welcomes the fabulous singers, Dave Arch, and his wonderful orchestra, and gets the comma in the right place. The job's yours, Tess!

Craig admits to being marginally disappointed, because he didn't think it was showy enough - it was cool, but not confident until after the first lift. Len wasn't disappointed at all, possibly because Phil is a SPORTSMAN, but ostensibly because he's seen a change of attitude in Phil (hmm, must be catching) who's much more determined and has the will to win. Alesha thinks Phil has his swagger back, and loved the freeness of this dance. She compliments his transitions into the lift, and adds that it was very entertaining. Bruno ends by saying Phil has a blissful look "like someone who just joined the mile high club". Oh dear, it's going to be one of those nights. He points out that Phil lost his timing a few times, but he coped with it well. Katya adds that he performed well, and she was very proud of him. Tess throws to Ronnie to ask what Bruce thought of the lifts - the answer is, of course, "higher, higher". Tess then discovers that it's easier to be thrown to than it is to throw to someone else, as she tries about three different lead-ins for Claudia in the House of Tesstosterone, and none of them seem to take. Poor Tess.

Backstage, Phil says it was good fun, and he didn't drop Katya, which he'd been worried about. Claudia asks if they're angry about Craig being disappointed; Katya confesses to being "a little bit livid". Heh. Scores: Craig 7, Len 8, Alesha 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 31. Phil's highest score to date. Claudia grabs Katya's hand on the excuse that "I'm new" while she reads out the voting numbers. Hee.

On second are Ricky and Natalie. Tess teases that the upcoming jive could be the fastest one we've ever seen on the show. Last week they fucked up quite massively, yet the VT undermines the entire show by showing the scores of one eight and three nines while Natalie wonders backstage how the judges missed so many colossal fuckups. In this week's rehearsals, Natalie insists that 35 with a few mistakes is not good enough - and Ricky's chasing Ali now that she's received a perfect score. He's hoping he can survive and not make a mistake on the big day.

Natalie starts the routine perched on the judges' desk, so I kind of hate this already. It's certaily a fast jive, but the problem is that the execution is not precise enough to stop it from looking a little bit sloppy in places. To be honest, I'm not a massive fan of the choreography Natalie's come up with for this, which is just a bit too manic for my tastes, and seems to be more about showboating than actual dancing. It ends with Ricky holding Natalie under her arms and whirling her around between his legs, which is impressive, sure, but just looks cumbersome.

Len says that Ricky is the most consistent because he's never had lower than an eight from him. Len, sweetheart, there's hardly been a contestant on this show in the last three years that's got less than seven from you, so that's such a redundant point. He's worried that Ricky is "the hunted" and everyone's after him, so he mustn't get complacent. Oh, and it gets better: "think back a year ago," Len tells Ricky, "and Austin Healy was in the same spot that you're in. Everyone thought he was going to win. You have one dance where it's not quite so good, you're in the dance-off against somebody who's really great, and you're out." Except the other person in that equation was LISA SNOWDON, so it's less a case of being up against "somebody who's really great" and more a case of being up against "someone who the judges are determined to drag into the final at all costs". Still bitter? Me? Not in the slightest. Anyway, he finishes by telling them to maintain this standard, so essentially Len spoke for about a minute, of which only about five seconds was actually commentary specifically relating to this dance. Alesha might as well be head judge at this rate. Speaking of Alesha, she doesn't know how they kept up - but she noticed Ricky's timing went out occasionally and he was looking down too much for her liking. Still, he brought "the fun-ness" to the dance. Bruno says, "Talk about a tight package full of power" - I'd rather not, thanks Bruno. He says that the power and energy were high, but the accuracy suffered as a result, though Ricky's work throughout the competition has been amazing. Craig loved it, but thought it lost technique because of the speed. He thought Ricky was behind a lot of the time, and he didn't think the choreography was up to the normal standards. Ricky defends Natalie by saying that she had to tone down the choreography because he had a dodgy leg, and yet there is no "NO FACKING EXCUSES" interjection from Len and Craig like last week.

In Claudia's House of Tesstosterone, Natalie confirms that they slowed it down four times, which I assume means by a factor of four, but I'm open to other interpretations if anyone has any. She takes Craig's comments on board and promises to up the ante next week. I love that neither of them bothers to add "if we're still here", because everyone knows they're not going anywhere. Scores: Craig 8, everyone else 9, so this got the same score as the tango of fuckupitude from last week, and I can't really make sense of the marks they're giving Ricky any more, but I need to save all my energy to make sense of the scoring for Laila later. After the scores come in, Ricky sends love to Jade and Ian on behalf of everyone backstage, and comments on how amazing their tango was looking. Excuse me, I have something in my eye. *runs off sobbing*

Tess is standing next to Ronnie Corbett and Craig Kelly (this is not where Ronnie was sitting a minute ago, by the way), and reminds us that Ricky and Erin were in the dance-off last week. Erin has styled herself as Baroness Thatcher this week, for reasons I can't quite pin down. Last week's salsa got a lukewarm reception, and Ricky is hoping not to be in that position again. Erin remarks that Ricky's fighting spirit has departed him, so to give him a bit of a morale boost, she shows him a video of his nan, Hilda. Hilda is lovely, but seriously, the battle of the celebrity nans has already been won by Alesha, and no one else is ever likely to trouble her for that trophy.

They're dancing the Viennese waltz to 'Nights In White Satin', and it's a bit stilted. Ricky's balance seems off, and it feels to me that the gravitational pull of Erin's professional smile is the only thing holding him upright for the most part. He's concentrating very hard (and wearing his glasses, incidentally), which I think prevents him from being able to sell it properly - however, it has enabled him to get his shoulders in the correct position for possibly the first time in all of his ballroom efforts.

Bruno says that the Viennese waltz made him spin in disbelief - but in a good way, as he's never seen Ricky so composed and restrained, and he kept on time all the way through. His hold on Erin was scarily firm, though, and looked set to crush her at points. Craig felt like he couldn't relax watching it, because Ricky looked so tense, but he thought he coped very well with all the changes of steps and that it was a great job overall. Len disagrees with Bruno and Craig because he didn't see much wrong with it - he noted Ricky's elbow dropping, "but I'm not even going to worry about that because I was fascinated with your glasses." Seriously, Len: I know I'm not your biggest fan, but I would consider it a personal favour if you at least attempted to maintain some small pretense of professionalism. [Len's "I'm not even going to worry about that" has been a bugbear of mine for years now but it has been pleasantly absent for much of this series. - Carrie] He adds that Ricky got all the steps in, and he recovered well from his bad week last week. Alesha says she's seen real improvement in him - he probably felt vulnerable this week, but he should feel proud of himself for what he's achieved this week. Alesha seems so bored tonight. [She would rather be SINGING WITH SHEPHERD'S BUSH, probably. - Carrie]

Backstage, Ricky tells Claudia that the dance-off really does knock your confidence, but he thanks Erin for helping him to get it back. Scores: Craig 7, Len 8, Alesha 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 29. Ricky and the former prime minister are happy with this score.

Chris and Ola are next, and we're reminded of their high-scoring foxtrot from last week. He was thrilled to be only one point behind Ricky Whittle, and it has improved his confidence. They're doing the paso doble this week, and Chris is trying to get used to being in charge, even though we all know that Ola is in charge AT ALL TIMES. They needle each other about it fairly adorably in training.

They head out to the floor, with Chris carrying a cape. Their paso is to 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love', which is a dreadful song choice, and not just for the obvious reasons. It's actually a lot of fun to watch because the choreography is very dramatic, and for once Chris's scrunchy concentration face sort of works for the dance, but any time he does an appel or tries to look commanding, it's quite hard to take him seriously. It's the whole Christine Bleakley "I'm too nice for this dance" thing all over again. Afterwards, Tess says that she was loving the paso face, and Ola pretends to have been scared.

As does Len, who "nearly pooed [his] pants". Lovely. He didn't think Chris would pull off the paso, but he CAME OUT and gave it plenty - he says that "Craig or Bruno will probably bring it up" (stop leaving the actual judging to other people, Len!) and then tells Chris he could've been firmer in the buttocks. I run into the kitchen, grab the sharpest knife I can find, make an incision in the top of my head and pour an entire bottle of Domestos directly onto my brain. Mmmm, bleachy. Anyway, Len loved the attack of the dance. Alesha tells Ola she's doing a great job with Chris, but picks him up on his hands again, and says that more shaping in the body was needed, but she thought it was intense all the way through and performed brilliantly. Bruno comments "that was awful, but I liked it" - he thought Chris looked like a child having a tantrum, prompting Len to start in with the "no! no!"s in the background, sounding not unlike a child himself. Bruno then continues to the valid point of Chris needing more refinement in his dancing, particularly in something like this where he really needs to capture the essence of the matador. "Fair points - well done, Bruno," says Chris. Don't make me hate you, Hollins. Craig thought it had danger, menace and aggression, but it lacked dancing - it was all just placed, and it lacked the dignity, honour and authority of a matador. Which is basically a refinement of what Bruno just said, and I concur. Tess asks them to comment on the caping, since Chris is only the second male celebrity this series to attempt a cape, and frankly, unless it's Kelly Brook and the PINK SPARKLEE CAPE OF YEY, I have no interest.

Backstage, Claudia thought it was brilliant, and asks Ola for her comments on Bruno's comments. Ola says that Chris isn't an angry person, so it was hard to get that out of him. Claudia babies Chris a little bit. Scores: Craig 6 (look of disdain from Len, and seriously, FUCK OFF, GOODMAN), Len 8, Alesha 9 (Alesha, I try to defend you at all times, but even I am drawing a blank right now) and Bruno 7 for a total of 30. Claudia promises to have a go at Craig on Monday for that six.

Midway leaderboard: Ricky and Natalie are top, then Phil and Katya, then Chris and Ola, and Ricky and Erin at the bottom.

Laila and Anton are next. Laila has also received an injury "in training", Tess tells us. Their rumba training is not going well, as Laila is finding it hard to generate the appropriate aura of sexuality with Anton. In fairness, she does say they are "like husband and wife", so that's probably why. She vows to fancy the pants off Anton come Saturday night. Unfortunately, a few hours before the show, Laila tripped on the stairs on the way to her dressing room and sprained her ankle. And obviously I'm sympathetic, but that's not really a training injury, is it? Tsk, Tess. Laila goes to the hospital, but she vows to continue her rumba, "even if I have to hop it, and it's the unsexiest rumba you've ever seen in your life."

Even before they go on, Laila is looking rather unwilling, and her ankle is all tightly bandaged up. They're dancing to 'Rule The World', and it's all so very very tentative, because Laila can barely walk on her ankle, much less dance on it. You can just tell she's concentrating on making it through , but after about a minute, it becomes clear that she wants to stop, and then she covers her face with one hand and breaks down, at which point Anton, being genuinely chivalrous for a change, scoops her up in his arms and swirls her around to spare her the indignity of being stood there unable to finish the dance. She could've always gone for a little sit down on the steps, of course. Then she would've got 40 next week. The audience applauds.

Anton delivers a tearful Laila to the judges, and Tess informs us that it was touch and go whether Laila would be able to perform tonight, and that everyone appreciates her for having a go. Admittedly I'm unsure of the timeline, injury-wise, but I suspect that Laila's decision to go ahead and perform may have been the fact that Jade was already out with an injury, and she didn't want the show to have to lose two couples - which is very laudable, of course, but I don't necessarily know if it was the right decision for her. [I was thinking the same. Tess's word choices were interesting - the doctors forbade Jade from dancing, which makes sense if it's cartilage or ligament damage, but left it up to Laila, because dancing on a sprained ankle won't make it any worse once the injury's been incurred. And then Tess was fulsome in her thanks for Laila's bravery. I wonder if some gentle pressure was applied. And not on an ice compress to her ankle. - Carrie] Craig says that it's too bad that she was concentrating so hard on her injury, because there were glimmers of promise in there, but he can only really grade her on the first part of it. Which I guess is pretty much the only thing he can do, since if you start grading people on how you think they might have done had they not been hampered by something or other, then everyone will start getting scored the same way that Ricky Whittle does, and it'll all be chaos. Len says "the rule is" (where is this rulebook, please?) that if you get through at least 50% of the dance, they will mark it on what they've seen, and he thought Laila was doing really well considering she was injured and in pain. He was enjoying it, so he's going to judge it on what he saw. Alesha feels sorry for Laila, and tells her she looks beautiful, but what she lacked in technique she made up for in passion, and she enjoyed what she saw before it went wrong. Bruno thinks it could've been beautiful, but he has to comment on what he saw, and it was a dance Laila couldn't do justice to, because of circumstances out of her control, and in fairness to the other dancers, he - join in at home if you know the words - can only mark on what he saw. I THINK WE GET IT.

Tess wonders what the hell is going on (seriously, I'm right there with you, Tess), and backstage, Claudia hands Laila a tissue. Laila says that she was just concentrating on trying to get through it. Claudia reiterates that it was Laila's decision to dance, and admires her dress with all the fringing. Scores: Craig 3, Len 7, Alesha 6, Bruno 6. Craig gets booed for his score, but I'm not entirely sure it was that unfair - she only did half a dance, and wasn't even able to do that particularly well because of her injury. I know that there were mitigating circumstances, and I wouldn't have wanted to be in the position of having to assign this dance a score out of ten given everything that's happened, but I don't think he was particularly out of order there. Laila and Anton both take the score gracefully, even managing to giggle that it's the same score they got for their jive. Claudia cautions them not to say "the J word". What, journey?

Next are Natalie and Vincent. NATALIE HAS A BOW MADE OF HAIR. I mean, it looks fugly, but I appreciate the engineering that brought it into being all the same. Sort of like an electricity pylon, in that regard. Natalie is very proud of her quickstep from last week, and likens herself to the tortoise out of The Hare And The Tortoise, complete with terrifying tortoise impression. Louisa Lytton comes in to oversee their rehearsals, cunningly disguised as Jessie Wallace, and does not do her jive for us, which saddens me. Natalie thinks she could be a contender at this point.

Their foxtrot is to 'Magic Moments', which can't ever be anything but cheesy, and...well, it's a foxtrot, isn't it? It's not very exciting, and there are some nice bits of choreography in it, but it just feels like a bit of a genteel stroll around the dancefloor to me, and is the latest in a line of disappointing dances this evening. I know we're not in BLACKPOOL any more, but come on, everybody: buck your ideas up. They finish with air kisses, and I am glad it ended before it gave me diabetes.

Natalie kisses Tess's hand in Bruce's absence, and sends him get well soon. Bruno thinks Natalie has gone all posh, and he can see she was really trying to work on her body contact. He thought it lacked a bit of freedom of movement, and counsels her to remember that both things are important. Craig agrees in that it lacked the flow around the floor, but he thought it was beautifully simple and honest. Len says it was "quality right up my street" and "full of magic moments" (KILL ME NOW), and declares it was Natalie's best dance. Christ, I thought her jive was better than this. Alesha loved the song choice, which she thought suited both of their personalities (if she means trite, then I agree, but I suspect she does not), and she found it elegant, composed and beautiful. I'm so on a different page to these guys, bceause I just did not get this one at all.

Backstage, Natalie throws her arms around all "I'm a lady! I'm a lady!", sounding a bit like Emily Howard. Natalie says that she's very excited this week because Claudia's here and Ronnie Corbett's here. Vincent chips in, "And I'm here!", which prompts Natalie to scowl, "You're ALWAYS here", which did at least make me laugh. Scores: Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 8 for a total of 34. That's pretty much up there with the 40 given to Lisa Snowdon's cha cha cha in the WTF Scoring Hall Of Fame for me.

Out in front, Tess is with the judges, and we're ending with Ali and Brian. We're reminded that she got 40 for her Viennese waltz last week. Tonight she has a cha cha cha to perform, and a lot to live up to. They were on a massive high after the comments, before the scores even came in. Ali says it was a real Cinderella moment of the kind that doesn't normally happen in life. Brian says that he's trying to show her wild side in the cha cha cha. Predictably, Ali struggles a bit with being sexy in rehearsals, and is being kind of intense about wanting to do well after her brush with the bottom two the other week.

They're dancing to 'I Gotta Feeling' by the Black Eyed Peas, and thankfully, this is a pretty decent dance, just when I was beginning to abandon all hope. It lacks the raunchiness that a cha cha cha probably should have, but there's some really nice choreography on display, and it's certainly the best executed dance of the evening to my eyes. Alesha compliments Ali on her technical excellence, specifically her arms and her cha cha walks, though she thought it was a tad polite for her tastes, and she would like to see more fire in her belly. Bruno agrees entirely - Ali is one of the very few people that always finishes her arm movements properly, but she's a nice girl, not the bad girl this dance needs. Craig thought the music didn't suggest a cha cha cha, but he thought the choreography that came from it was spectacular. He points out that Ali was a bit early on one kick, but he likes the partnership. Len liked it, but thought it was "a Darcey Bussell" cha cha cha - in that it was "airy fairy". I am interested to see how the aforementioned Ms Bussell responds to that when she joins the judging panel in a few weeks. Ronnie then pretends to phone Bruce, and reports that Bruce's temperature has gone up following the hip action. That was such an abortive attempt at a running gag, having Ronnie phoning Bruce. I realise they probably had to come up with it at short notice, but I'm inclined to think they'd have been better off not bothering.

Ali and Brian hustle back to Claudia, and Brian is pleased that his choreography was complimented. He agrees that Ali is a polite girl. Claudia remarks in a baby voice that Ali is so very sweet, and then realises that she "probably shouldn't do the raccoon voice". Heh. Scores: Craig 9, Len 8, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35. They're happy with that.

Final leaderboard: Ricky W and Ali are tied for first place, with Natalie behind, then Phil, then Chris, then Ricky, then Laila at the bottom with two points. Claudia ceremoniously opens the phone lines, and does a little jig. The usual recap VT follows, but I have no real desire to relive any of those performances. D'you know what the kicker is? If Jade hadn't injured herself, there's a good chance she might have actually been top tonight, because everyone else was so off their game and her tango was looking good. Ah, I weep for what might have been. [On Dancing With The Stars, if someone is injured in training, they give marks according to their dress rehearsal. - Carrie]

Post-VT, Claudia is joined by all the couples, and clarifies for the record that Jade was expressly forbidden from dancing tonight, while Laila was given the option of deciding for herself and elected to go ahead. Laila's ankle is still very sore and quite swollen. Natalie can't believe she got 34 (neither can I), and she might be a contender now, so she wants to stick around.

After this, we have a bolero demonstration from Brian and Kristina, which Tess comments is a new dance to the show. Part of me hopes this means the contestants will have to dance it at some point, thought I don't know if this is actually the plan. It basically just looks like a rumba with a few more lifts in it, but it's wonderfully danced by Brian and Kristina, and if we're nicking dances from Dancing On Ice, I wonder how long it will be before wire work gets weaved in somewhere.

Tess is now in the audience with Ronnie, who is sitting in front of Lionel Blair and next to Craig Kelly again. He tells Tess that she's his favourite. Heh. And following that, it's time for the inaugural VT of the Great British Public saying who they're voting for. Some schoolboys like Jade, as do some nurses, and a drummer. Some people in anoraks like Chris, as does a horsey lady and a woman with curly blonde hair. Some people enjoy Ali and Brian's "love on the dancefloor", and an elephant keeper at Whipsnade Zoo doesn't think Ali will be packing her "trunk" for a while yet. Does anyone even carry a trunk any more? Isn't that joke officially so archaic now that it should be pensioned off? (Insert Bruce Forsyth joke here.) Some Liverpudlians love Ricky, as does a woman in a costume shop. A bell-ringer likes Natalie Cassidy, as does a woman in a long scarf. A man painting a wall is voting for Ricky Groves, while a man in a kilt fancies Laila, and a random market trader who has apparently recently suffered a head trauma thinks Laila is good at Latin American dances. Seriously: WHAT? A cab driver likes Tuffers, and a footballing chap thinks that if Darren Gough can win it, then Tuffers has a good chance of making the final. If Darren Gough can win it, I should think a discarded football boot has a reasonably good chance of taking the glitterball trophy home, personally. Len would give it a ten for being SPORTS EQUIPMENT.

Tess asks Craig whose performance he enjoyed most, and he names Ali and Brian, since her arm placement is great, and her timing is always excellent (except for that one kick), and she's good at ballroom AND Latin. Len's asked who should be worried, and he says Laila, albeit through no fault of her own. Alesha is asked who she's looking forward to seeing next week, and she says Jade, because she was really missed tonight (AND HOW) and she wishes her a speedy recovery, and then also mentions Chris for good measure, suggesting he could be a contender, and Bruno says that the biggest improvement tonight came from Phil, who's advanced from a bum-shaker into a proper dancer.

We're back with Claudia again, and Tuffers is thrilled to have been singled out. He says that if he's lucky enough to come back, he'll be aiming for a nine or a ten. Chris says that he's just calmed down now, and is pleased that he's one of Alesha's favourites.

Tess is up in the gallery again, and introduces a performance from the professionals, and initially confuses me by saying "for one night only", which is odd because all of the dances on this show are for one night only, until it turns out that they're dancing to 'One Night Only' from Dreamgirls. Taking part are Darren, Lilia, James, Kristina, Matthew and Aliona. It's an impressively acrobatic display, and I'm probably a bit biased because I love this song, except when Pirate Jessie is doing it.

Tess announces the closure of the phone lines and a performance from the Jersey Boys while the phone votes are totted up. They're singing 'Beggin'', and I assume this is a pre-record because surely they would've been on stage at the time this show was on. A dance troupe (Boy Blue, apparently) comes on to do some hip hop moves to it, and seriously, can we just get this over with already? This is quite possibly the worst episode of the series because everything's just felt like such a shambles, and while this is all very nice, I mentally checked out of this episode about fifteen minutes ago.

It ends eventually, and Tess is impressed that there is breakdancing on the show. It's then time for yet another fucking I Don't Want To Go Home VT, and why must we always sit through one of these? Nobody ever wants to go home on this show, except for Stephanie Beacham, and she'd have far more class than to talk about it in a VT. Ricky Groves tears up a bit at the thought of going home. Oh, grow a pair.

Finally, it's time for Tess to reveal the results. In no particular order, as always, the following couples are safe: Ricky and Natalie, Natalie and Vincent, Ali and Brian, Chris and Ola, and Laila and Anton, which leaves Ricky and Erin and Phil and Katya in the dance-off. Natalie Lowe runs over to hug Erin. Bless.

There's no asking of advice from Len (hurrah!), and instead we're straight to business: suddenly Claudia is out front for the first time all night, and welcomes Phil and Katya back to the floor. The level of performance is improved second time around, though there are a few moments of uncertainty in the dancing which may be actual mistakes, though I don't remember the first outing of the dance well enough to be certain. Then Claudia's in the gallery, and wastes no time in welcoming back Ricky and Erin, who are also giving it a bit more welly this time around, but the whole thing still feels a bit awkward and unbalanced to watch. I'd have given the edge to Phil and Katya, personally.

It's decision time: Craig says that it's difficult, as Phil and Katya made "a big ol' boo boo in their dance", so he saves Ricky and Erin. Alesha saves Phil and Katya. Bruno also votes for Phil and Katya. And so we go to Head Judge Len and his casting vote, who opts for the couple who gave the "cleaner and more precise" performance - Ricky and Erin. So Phil and Katya are out.

Tess asks Phil if he's enjoyed himself, and he barely has enough time to say "yes" before Katya launches into a fairly blatant "let me come back next year" plea: "It was the most amazing experience - it was so amazing to be part of this family and to feel so welcome, and I had the best partner." I hope she comes back, anyway, because I like her a lot. They take to the floor for their farewell dance, and Ronnie and Claudia join Tess, who points to next week's show, with the return of Bruce and a performance from Shirley Bassey. Claudia implores us to join her on It Takes Two during the week, and that's that.

If I can indulge myself for one last paragraph: this was such an odd show, where everything just felt a bit off - whether it was the amount of injuries, or the absence of Bruce, or the faint aura of boredom hanging over the judges' table, or a particularly protracted post-BLACKPOOL comedown, I don't know, but it really just didn't feel right at all. Fingers crossed that all is back to normal next week, and super-extra fingers crossed that Jade will be well enough to continue competing. See you then!

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