Top 4: 5th December 2009
I've noticed the oddest thing: ever since I started actually going out on Saturday nights and watching the show when I get back (I know it might sound hard to believe of someone who spends as much time recapping reality television as I do, but I do have a life, honest), my PVR has actually started recording the show properly, rather than chopping off the start like it used to. It's almost like it knows whether I'm here or not. Spooky.
Anyway, I'm sure you've not come here to read about the amazing variations in the performance of my PVR, so let's get on with things, shall we? Last week: Len yelled at Craig again some more, Ali got some more tens, and it was a bad week for anyone called Natalie as The First One and Vincent ended up in the dance-off with Ricky and The Second One (note to Natalie Lowe stans: the order was decided alphabetically, I am not claiming for a second that she is somehow inferior or less important than Natalie Cassidy, your mileage may vary, etc etc etc), and the former EastEnder finally went home, and some tears were shed - but not by me, obviously, because many years of recapping have given me a heart of stone. Except for that time when Jade had to pull out, obviously. *sniff* [And when Alesha won two years ago and we sobbed at each other down the phone. - Carrie]
This week: it's the quarter-final, and only three of the remaining four couples can continue. And to make matters worse, they've all got to do TWO proper dances each. Heavens to Betsy! This is Strictly Come Dancing: watched retroactively via the miracles of digital television! (Yep, still doesn't have the same zing as "live!", does it?)
We have Bruce and we have Tess. Tess has thankfully eschewed the history-changing neckwear she was sporting last week, and has instead gone for a fairly tasteful peach-coloured full-length number. Her boobs look a bit squashed, though. Sorry, Tess.
The obligatory opening skit contains a Tiger Woods joke, which is at least more topical than the usual creaky old numbers we're treated to. Of course, any goodwill built up by this rare lapse into the timeline of 2009 is tarnished when Bruce refers to himself as "Pussy Forsyth", and now I've got visions of him playing Honor Blackman's role in Goldfinger, and I'm telling you now: they ain't pretty.
Because tonight's show is split into two sections for performance and results, we've got a bit more filler in the main show, so instead of introducing the dancers, we're treated to a showcase cha cha cha from the professionals, which is all very nice, but I'm sure I'm not alone in sitting here thinking "JUST GET ON WITH IT". You have a 30 minute long results show when the actual process of eliminating one couple takes 15 minutes at the absolute most, so I'm sure you could've fitted this in there if you really wanted to. Yes, you, the person reading this. Somehow, I have decided it's all your fault. Anyway, in the time it's taken me to type all of this, the cha cha cha is still continuing, and it's all lovely, but now I really am getting antsy. And then it ends.
Bruce claims to be in "a funny mood" tonight: the odds of him screaming at Craig before the end of the evening shorten dramatically at this exact moment. The remaining couples will be performing one ballroom and one Latin American routine each, and just in case you've forgotten, they are Chris and Ola, Ricky and Natalie, Ali and Brian, and Laila and Anton. Due to the still-abridged introduction, the pan across all the dancers fails once more as only Chris|Ola and Ricky|Natalie are in place when it actually happens. Ola is clapping and Ricky taps her on the back and whispers something that looks as though it was encouraging, but her lack of response makes it quite hard to tell.
Bruce advises the remaining couples that even if they go out tonight, there's still a chance to get a last-minute panto job - suggesting that Anton would make an excellent Baron Hardup. Anton cracks up completely at this, and as Tess urges Bruce to continue, Anton can be heard in the background saying something to the effect of "that could've come out wrong". I'm just amazed no one suggested that Craig should be the Wicked Queen. Maybe the humour on this programme is getting marginally more sophisticated. Or maybe it's just the age-old truth that if you expect the worst, sometimes you'll be pleasantly surprised.
After Tess runs through the rules for those of us who've been living under the sea for the past six years, it's time for the first ballroom routine of the night: Ali and Brian's tango. Feminists everywhere are subsequently delighted when Bruce suggests that Ali conjured up the necessary air of haughty anger when Brian called her a fatass while she was trying her dress on. Dear everybody on this show: you really are above gags like that. Even you, Len. Anyway, last week Ali's Charleston was fucking brilliant (even though Team Cola's was the crowdpleaser of the night, but whatever, I'll just be over here enjoying THE SANCTITY OF THE DANCE like one of those assholes you hope you don't get left talking to at the Christmas party), and they got a 10 for their competitive Viennese waltz even though Brian totally rammed two other couples out of the way. Ali admits that the pressure has increased now that they have two dances, especially since one of them is the dreaded samba. But first they must master the tango. Brian lies that they've mastered the hate side of the dance and now they just have to work on the love. Ali kicks some exercise balls across the room in an attempt to look like a hard-tangoing badass, and points out that as there's a 50:50 chance of being in the dance-off this week, it's a tough week.
They're dancing to 'Born To Be Wild', which is an odd choice of music, I think, since the tempo's a little too speedy to bring out the air of menace in this dance. There's a moment about 20 seconds in where Ali has a minor stumble and the "oh, SHIT" look on her face totally gives her away for a second or two, but she recovers reasonably well. The unfortunate downside is that her face changes from haughty to nervous at this point, which is a shame. As always with Ali's dances, it's technically proficient if lacking a little bit of fire, and it ends in that walking-off-to-separate-corners thing that Brian's so fond of.
Bruce reminds us of the thing that I had clean forgotten about: this week leading ballerina Darcey Bussell has joined the judging panel, and it is indeed looking a tad snug behind that desk. Anyway, the tabloids will be pleased, because now there are two women on the judging panel, there's a positive abundance of "they HATE each other! Women cannot interact at all in a professional capacity!" stories they can run. (And not to add to the wank, but when they cut to a long shot of all five judges, Alesha is the only one not clapping for Darcey - although it kind of looks like she had been clapping, and just finished about a nanosecond before the camera cut to her, which is somewhat unfortunate.) Bruce says that in Darcey's honour, Len is wearing tights and a pink tutu under the desk - as is Craig, but he wears them every week. Ahh, THERE's the obligatory "Craig is a big mincer" joke. I was getting worried. Bruce welcomes Darcey, and she plummily thanks him, and says that she isn't the punching bag between Len (at which point she points at Craig - excellent start, Darcey) and Craig.
Alesha is the first to comment on the tango, and she tells Ali that she isn't sure she was born to be wild, but that she still loved it. She warns Ali that she shows occasional moments of insecurity, but she deserves to be here. She also praises Ali's footwork and her ability to keep character (which she totally didn't do during that initial stumble, and damn, I'm really nitpicky tonight). Bruno says he's going to be picky, and points out Ali's stumble, and the way that it knocks her out of the zone - he tells her that at this stage she needs to sell the character as well as the technical side of the dance, and he wants her to do it again as her alias, Anastasia Beaverhausen. The producers of Will and Grace call their lawyers with regard to making a breach of intellectual property suit against Mr B Tonioli. Craig says that Ali had a lot of balance issues, and that the stop didn't work, but her hands were beautifully shaped in a Spanish fashion which was brilliant because, he spits, they're normally too ballet (and it would be a good idea not to inject quite so much horror into that word when you're sat next to Darcey Bussell, Craig) and it was sharp and feisty. Darcey, in the same eerie monotone she'll use all night, says that she loved it, but Ali needs to watch that she keeps her body still during the head turns. Len says that, last week's Charleston aside, Ali's a bit of a one-trick pony who only does elegant, and that doesn't suit this dance. He says that next week he wants her to come out and give the Argentine tango some welly. No one adds "if you're still here" which hangs in the air.
In the House of Tesstosterone, Tess asks how Ali feels about the mixed reviews. Ali says that if she's lucky enough to come back (THERE we go), she'll have to show some fight. Ali does her angry hamster face once more for Tess's benefit, and says that she found this tough, because the Charleston suited her personality better. I always knew she was a goofball. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 8, Alesha 9, Bruno 8 for a total of 42. Man, this whole score-out-of-50 thing is going to totally confuse me, I just know it. Tess asks if Ali can better it in the samba, and there's a slightly awkward pause before Brian's all "well, I hope so". Heh.
Laila and Anton are next, with their American smooth. Bruce says that the two-dance stage of the competition is all new to Anton - normally he only gets to dance twice when he's in the dance-off. Again, as much as I hate to inject some fact-checking into the "humour" (oh, who am I kidding, I love doing this), but Anton did actually reach this stage with both Patsy Palmer and Lesley Garrett, but in fairness, it has been a while. Laila's Charleston last week got mostly good reviews, Craig aside. Laila thought that the six was unnecessarily mean, but she's not going to dwell on it. Aside from right now, obviously. Laila claims that Anton has never danced in December before (again, my sums tell me that he managed with Patsy, but whatevs), and that now the competition is getting fierce. They rehearse their lifts, and Laila screams a lot. She hopes that she can get Anton into the semi-finals.
Their foxtrot-themed routine starts with a Len-baiting bit of MUCKIN ABAHT, which isn't as fun as the pantomiming at the start of their Charleston was, sadly, and the ascent into the first lift is a little bit tentative, but there are some nice flourishes in the choreography, even if it does look a little bit like Anton's quite forcibly leading Laila around sometimes. They end with a shoulder-lift, and Laila's dress falls over Anton's face. Heh.
Craig thought Laila's posture was poor throughout, that she doesn't complete her lines, that she was awkward getting in and out of her lifts, that she stumbled on some of her turns, and it was generally clumsy and disappointing. Darcey says it should've been Laila's dance, but it wasn't - her shoulders go up too much, and she needs to use her back muscles to hold them down. She thinks Laila looked out of control. Len was disappointed too, and blames Anton a little bit, but he says they can always bring it back in the salsa. Yes, because if there's one thing Anton and Laila are known for, it's the collective awesomeness of their Latin American dances. Are you high, Len? Alesha's of the same tune - she thought Laila coped well at times, but she was unsteady and nearly fell at one point. She follows Len's advice to try to bring it back in the Latin, and completely forgetting the audience demographics for this show, advises Laila to "fix up, look sharp". Heh. Bruno, apparently, has no comment. I eagerly await the "why bother having five judges if you don't solicit everyone's opinion" complaints. And by "eagerly", I mean "dreadingly".
In the House of Tesstosterone, Laila cops to almost entirely losing her balance at one point, but rather sensibly admits that it's too late to worry about it now. Laila and Anton rather unconvincingly promise their salsa will be better. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 6, Len 7 (and the triumphant cry of "SEV-UNN!" sounds a little bit more scared when it has to follow the opinion of a world-class ballerina, heh), Alesha 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 33. Anton says that it's even more disappointing to not get anywhere near 40 when there are five judges. Hee.
Team Cola are next, and get a roaring cheer from the audience - gosh, I wonder who the public favourites are this year? Following the obligatory gag about the near-invisible nature of Ola's costumes, we go into the VT where they chirp merrily about how well their Charleston went. Chris says that Ola has always told him he can dance, and now he's just starting to believe it. There's a bit of padding about how their routine follows the exact same pattern every single day (apparently they eat the same sandwich every day - come on guys, live a little!) for 12 weeks. Ola admits that Chris struggles to pick up steps and the strain of two dances is proving tricky for him. Chris promises to deliver a brilliant waltz by Saturday.
They're waltzing to 'At This Moment', and as you might expect, Chris is leading with his chin once more. I'm starting to think that he does The Faces on purpose at this point, to be honest. Unsurprisingly, there are also a lot of pivots, since we've all learnt at this point that they prompt the best reactions in the audience. It's a decent enough routine - I doubt I'll remember it in two days' time, but in terms of whether it's good enough for this stage of this competition: sure.
Len says that Chris is improving - his posture and hold especially, and if he sorts his head and hands out he'll be well on the way. Alesha tells Chris she really likes him, and that he was confident and composed, and that he did an excellent job of conveying the emotion given the stressful nature of the contest at this stage. Bruno says that Chris clearly put a lot of effort into getting the footwork right, but he looked constipated at certain points, so he needs to learn to just let it go. "Don't get all tight on me!" he warns. Insert your own sexually-themed joke here if that's the way you like things. Craig thinks Chris danced it well up until the pivots which was when the strain starts showing, and he thinks that Chris would function better if he just smiled. A bit of disagreement bubbles up here, with Alesha being the most vocal, saying, "We need to get over the face thing now." Some hopes, Alesha. I'll get over it when Chris does.
Team Cola rush to the House of Tesstosterone, and Tess points out that they're the only couple left who've never been in the dance-off, and Chris effusively thanks the public for their support. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 8, Len 8, Alesha 9, Bruno 8 for a total of 41.
Rounding up the bunch are Ricky and Natalie - officially this year's Couple My Mum Doesn't Like (Now That Jade Has Had To Withdraw). There's a gag about Natalie's wongas almost falling out in the dance-off last week, and the VT recaps his lukewarm praise for his rock and roll routine, which led him to the dance-off. Ricky says that waiting for the judges to give their decision is the most horrible thing. They both admit that the pressure is on this week, both in the wake of the dance-off and with two routines to learn. Natalie is desperate to make the final, and so, as a sort of afterthought, is Ricky. Natalie has been training him very hard, and he's determined not to make the silly mistakes he's apparently become known for.
And because this show likes nothing better than a good comeback narrative, their foxtrot is very good indeed. It's not exciting, because foxtrots rarely are on this show, but it's elegant and well-crafted and technically very proficient. Bruno calls it "a foxtrot that hits all the spots" and says that the timing was spot-on throughout. Craig says he has to overlook Ricky's natural disability - his pigeon toes and bow-legs, lest we forget - but thinks it was uh-may-zing. Darcey agrees - it was smooth, stylish, classy and sincere. Len thinks it was "too marvellous for words", which was the name of the song they danced to.
In the HoT, Ricky and Natalie are very excited, until Tess whumps them back down to earth by reminding them of their brush with the dance-off. Ricky says that he felt like he let everyone down, and he hopes that people will see how much work he put in this week. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 9, Len 10, Alesha 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 48.
With the first four dances completed, we check in with the leaderboard, which runs much as I imagined it would: Ricky on top, Ali second, Chris third and Laila fourth. Tess claims "it could all change" when they perform their Latin, but somehow I seriously doubt that.
And so, Ali and Brian kick off the Latin round, where each dance will be introduced by an odd little VT where the judges (minus Darcey, who apparently wasn't yet on board when this was filmed) stand around on a sort of holodeck-thing looking at footage of past performances and making predictions of how shit is gonna go down. And yes, I do mean "stand" literally - apparently hiring a fifth judge meant they had to reduce the seating budget considerably. Bruno calls them "the love story of the series", and Alesha agrees that people love a bit of romance. Bruno says that their ballroom is incredible, but Craig wants to see her go to extremes in her Latin. Len doesn't think Ali can produce the level of performance necessary for the samba; Alesha disagrees. Craig thinks she lacks the necessary energy from the floor. Alesha wants her to come out with her hair all messy and gyrate. And then everyone sings 'SexyBack'. See, I told you this was weird.
Their samba is to that Daniel Merriweather song that sounds like it's about nubbins on a train, or something. It's actually a pretty good samba - it's not disco for starters, which helps enormously, and while it isn't exactly a party-starter, it is at least an interesting and well-performed routine, and where sambas are concerned I'll take what I can get. Craig thinks Ali coped beautifully with the changes in rhythm, and that Brian choreographed it to fit the softer music, which was great. He says that she lost Brian at one point while she was turning, but he always sees the details in her dancing, which is wonderful. Darcey says, "There was a sexy party going on between you two," and I really cannot articulate how terrifying that sentence is when it's spoken in a total monotone. Whimper. She says that she thought Ali got self-conscious halfway through and it affected her hip movements, and advises her to believe in herself, because she will be in the final, apparently. Len thought it was a tad brittle, but he liked it: she wasn't dancing into the floor enough and needs to work on that in her Latin. Alesha says it was the best samba of the series by far, and while it was precise and careful, she'd rather Ali did that than let her standards slip and get messy. She also tips Ali for the final, which is something Tess picks up on in the House of Tesstosterone, and Ali is very grateful for the praise. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 9, Len 8, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 44, which gives them a total of 86/100 for both dances.
Laila and Anton are back next, and we're off to the Strictly Holodeck once more. Alesha says that she's surprised they've lasted this long, and Bruno reinforces that her Latin dances are not as good as her ballroom. Len says that she's "one week a winner, the next week a sinner". [When the Head Judge is inspired lexically by the Oxford Street megaphone preacher, you have to wonder if your show has problems. - Carrie] Len picks out her quickstep as being a top-notch routine, and that's the standard she needs to be displaying every week. Len and Craig have another fight about the score Craig gave to Laila's rumba. Bruno can barely hide his mirth at the prospect of Laila and Anton dancing a salsa, and Len says that if they get more than a six, he'll pickle his walnuts and go on a date with Craig. Whether it'll definitely be in that order is as yet unconfirmed. Alesha says that Laila might be able to work the salsa, because it's a relaxed, social dance, which suits her. Len thinks they have the will to win, but not the skill.
Their salsa is to 'Cogele el Gusto', and it's the hot mess we've been expecting, naturally - though I am rather taken with the heart shape they've styled over Laila's chest on her costume. Well, it's either a heart or a giant arrow pointing to her vagina, but I know which option I prefer. Anton, meanwhile, has set the Chest-Hairometer to an eight, so you know he's worried right now. There's a bit where Laila stumbles and looks over to Anton a little bit lost, so I have my doubts over how much of this is the intended choreography. There are lots of arm twists, some more successful than others, and then the whole thing rather falls apart, though they gallantly keep it going until the bitter end.
They stumble over to Bruce, with Laila wailing that she doesn't know what happened, to which Bruce quips, "Well, you're probably going to find out now." Heh. Alesha quotes Len by telling Laila, "You're getting on my wick." Oh, Alesha. Please don't do that. She points out that it started well and then all went to pot (other mind-altering substances are available) and that Laila will need to work harder if she's lucky enough to be back next week. Bruno says that a deflated balloon would've had more rhythm and tone, and he's never seen such a mess in the quarter-final. Oh yes you have. Laila agrees that it was a mess. Craig says that it's an understatement to say the dance was beyond Laila, and that she has turns that would rival Fiona Phillips, which truly shocks the audience, and Bruce protests on the grounds that Fiona is a good friend of his. Snerk. Darcey says that Laila's been through a lot, but the other judges are right - she shouldn't be mucking up like that at this stage. SIT ON THE STAIRS, LAILA! IT'S THE ONLY THING THAT'LL SAVE YOU NOW!
Tess is admirably supportive as Laila and Anton arrive in the HoT, pointing out the huge pressure that everyone is under tonight. Laila doesn't know what happened, but her mind just went blank. Tess gently prods Laila on whether she should really be able to do better Latin routines at this stage, and Laila says that yes, she should. And I know I knock Tess a lot, but honestly, I thought she handled this whole bit brilliantly. Credit where it's due and all that. Anton says that they practised it all before and it went so well, but it just didn't translate when the moment came. Tess then points out that Anton holds the record for the lowest samba score in the show (18, for Kate Garraway in series five), and Anton bristles slightly at this, but even this I think has been handled decently by Tess, so good show. Scores (Laila is crying "two!" back in the HoT): Craig 5 (Laila's quite impressed), Darcey 5, Len 6, Alesha 5 (and there's an amazing moment here where the audience grumbles about this, and she pulls a face and mimics the noise they're making), Bruno 5 for a total of 28. They're pleased to at least have beaten 18, even if it took "14 extra judges", as Anton puts it.
Chris and Ola are next. The view from the Strictly Holodeck is that they're the cutest couple to watch (Alesha) and that he has a surprising feel for the music (Bruno). Craig points out that they started out well and then plummeted, but Len cites the paso doble as a breakthrough. Bruno thinks the energy is there, but Chris doesn't quite know what to do with it. BLACKPOOL was another highpoint, as was the Charleston, which everyone still loves. Len thinks that being able to produce an excellent foxtrot and an excellent Charleston means that Chris has obviously got what it takes. Craig thinks Chris shouldn't be underestimated, and that he may be able to survive his samba on the strength of his personality.
They start grinding before the music ('Cuba') starts - the routine is a little bit sloppy and doesn't seem to ask an awful lot of Chris other than to be Ola's maypole for large chunks of it. There's a section where Chris shoves his crotch into the audience's face, and then as they run back in together, Chris grabs Ola by one arm and one leg and whirls her around in a rather fumbled lift, which I'm fairly certain is not allowed - and really, if you're going to start chucking lifts in willy-nilly, at least make them good ones. Otherwise, why bother? Still, for all that this performance lacks on a technical level, Chris is definitely giving it his all, and you'd be surprised how far that goes to make up for his shortcomings.
Darcey says that Chris really sells a dance, and has made the biggest improvement out of everyone, though she notes there were not many samba steps in there and Ola was doing most of the work. She wants to see him in the final, though. Len says that while Bruno thought Chris was constipated in his waltz, he must have had a laxative since then - it wasn't quality dancing, but he was really giving it plenty, which is what Len wants in a samba. Alesha tells Chris not to keep buttoning his shirt up when he thinks nobody's looking because he looks great. Ha! She says that it needed more bounce action, but he did really well considering the problems most people have with the salsa. Bruno says it was crowd-pleasing, but there was too little samba in it, and they even resorted to the "Phil Tufnell special". I can't believe that we have five judges on this show (even if only four are allowed to speak) and not one of them mentioned the damn lift. [I thought Ola kept her trailing foot in contact with the ground. - Carrie]
In the House of Tesstosterone, Chris cops to a few mistakes, but Ola was pleased with his performance. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 8, Len 8, Alesha 8, Bruno 7 for a total of 39. Some minor hilarity backstage when Chris correctly predicts Bruno's score, and then there's a lot of booing, whether directed at Bruno or at the score in general I can't be entirely sure.
Finally, Ricky and Natalie will be delivering their cha cha cha. In our final visit to the Holodeck, Len recalls how it was obvious early on that Ricky was the one to beat, though Alesha points out that he hasn't got a perfect 40 yet (*pause for the haterz to point out that Alesha never got one either*). Bruno says that perfection eludes him. Len applauds his versatility, and Craig brings up the bow legs again. Bruno singles out the salsa as a high point, but Alesha still doesn't like that routine. Len still isn't over the backflip in the salsa, or the clean and jerk in the American smooth. Craig thinks he'll struggle with the cha cha cha, because it's a turned-out dance which is hard with those BOW LEGS. Basically, no one's entirely sure which way this is going to go.
They're dancing to 'Sunshine Of Your Love', and it's another impressively technically-honed performance. I personally don't find the choreography all that fascinating, but I'm well aware that's just a taste issue. Len says that Ricky's produced another fantastic dance tonight, and he really deserves to be in the semi-final next week. Alesha says that it was like a game of cat and mouse, with fantastic cha cha walks, which you don't often see from a male celebrity - he even made them look cool. Bruno thinks all the ladies are sweating now (ewww), and that Ricky's timing was wonderful, and he's a slick dancer. Craig thought it was masculine, sexy and turned out - Ricky and Natalie babble with relief about how hard they worked to achieve that.
In the HoT, Natalie says she doesn't care what score they get, she's just thrilled Craig noticed the feet. Ricky says that they worked really hard on his pigeon toes this week, because you never know when it's going to be your last dance. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 9, Alesha 10, Bruno 9 for a total of 47. They're thrilled with that result.
Final leaderboard: everyone's still in exactly the same position they were in the first time round. Interestingly, Ali and Brian are the only couple to have scored higher in the Latin round than they did in their ballroom. Oh, and there's a gap of 36 points between Ricky at the top and Laila at the bottom. Ouch.
After a lengthy video recap, all the couples are out front with Bruce and Tess, as they tease the results show with Bette Midler, and this is where they place the mandatory "I DO NOT WANT TO GO HOME" compilation VT. My favourite part of it is that they've messed the sound levels up on Laila's bit, so when she's talking about how desperate she is to reach the semi-final, it's like the sound recordist is running away from her. Hee.
We return to Bruce and Tess perched up in the gallery, while the four remaining couples stand nervously on the dancefloor. Bruce tells us that ahead we also have Vincent and Flavia's annual Argentine tango showcase and a performance from Bette Midler, before we go into a behind-the-scenes recap: Brian thought he and Ali were off to a great start, Laila planned to sauce things up with her salsa, Chris thinks he lacks sexual magnetism, Ricky and Natalie are thrilled with their three tens, Ali hopes to avoid the dance-off, Laila has basically packed her bags, Ola is squealing with joy again, and all the judges think Ricky and Ali were fantastic, and that New Judge Darcey did an excellent job. Illuminating, isn't it?
There's a reminder of the judges' leaderboard, where Bruce reads all of Tess's lines as well as his own, much to both of their amusement. Tess's posture here is dreadful, by the way. As is her hair - it's been bizarre all night, but it looks conspicuously bad here.
Then there's a VT leading into Vincent and Flavia's Argentine showcase, where they're dancing on a rooftop looking over London. Apparently the BBC is saving money by filming Strictly Come Dancing VT inserts and the opening titles for the next series of The Apprentice at the same time.
Vincent and Flavia's routine is a treat, as always: the kicks between each other's legs are flawless, the lifts are spectacular and elegant, and they still have that amazing chemistry as a dancing couple. There were several moments which, when I saw it for the first time, actually made me gasp loudly, and even watching it through again for recapping purposes, I'm mesmerised.
Backstage, everyone's like "HO SHIT" at the prospect of having to live up to that next week. Ricky says yet again that he feels like he let everyone down last week, so he hopes everyone liked his performances tonight. No one else gets a look in, and there isn't even an It Takes Two trailer - just a verbal plug from Tess. Swizz!
There follows an American smooth showcase from the professional dancers (including Vincent and Flavia, who must've got changed very quickly), which is all very pleasant (aside from the hideous lite-jazz arrangement of 'Get Happy' the band are playing), but really, anything's going to look a bit mediocre after that Argentine tango demonstration.
Then Bette Midler is here, and she and Bruce are going to do A Bit. Oh, lord. She talks about appearing at the Royal Variety Performance, and Bruce brags that he did the very first one - "when Victoria was queen?" asks Bette. Kill me now. And if you think it isn't going to get worse, Bruce talks about how it was Bette's birthday during the week, and he's got her a stripogram - Bruce himself. You know how there are some things you wish you could unsee? This was about six of them. Bette thanks Bruce, but says that she'll unwrap it later. "It'll keep," smarms Bruce. I wish I'd bought shares in Dettol before this bit of the show, because I practically had to be restrained from running to Sainsbury's and buying enough to take a bath in.
Thankfully, that's the end of the skit, and Bette goes off and sings 'The Rose', while James and Ola dance a rumba in front of her. Where are Darren and Lilia tonight? I haven't seen them at all. Perhaps after the dance machine fiasco, Lilia's down the arcade practising furiously, and Darren's standing obediently by with a pocket full of 50p pieces.
Bette gets a standing ovation for her troubles, and then it's time for the results. The couples who have a guaranteed spot in next week's semi-final are (to my surprise) Ali and Brian and (not so much to my surprise) Chris and Ola, meaning that Ricky|Natalie and Laila|Anton are in the dance-off. Wow, Ricky's popularity really nosedived in the past few weeks, didn't it? [I'm not sure. I am wondering whether he was ever that popular at all. It's only towards the end that it starts becoming obvious who's getting the public votes in, because being high in the judges' vote doesn't automatically get you through any more. - Carrie]
Behind Tess, Anton gives Laila a reassuring hug before they reprise their American smooth. It's slightly improved this time out, but I think they both know the kind of improvement needed to keep them in the competition over Ricky and Natalie is not the sort of thing they can pull off in a matter of hours. At the end, Anton starts wandering around with Laila still on his shoulder and her dress obscuring his vision. Heh. Ricky and Natalie repeat their foxtrot and obviously they didn't really need to improve it in the judges' eyes, so they deliver a similarly slick and sharp performance.
Only one of these two couples may continue, and while it's pretty much a formality, let's make it official: Craig votes to save Ricky and Natalie, "the most dynamic couple this evening", Darcey saves the couple that did "the most perfect performance" - Ricky and Natalie, and Alesha, in the unusual position of having the potentially casting vote for once, thinks Laila did a much better job the second time round, but votes to save Ricky and Natalie, who she thought did the best dance of the night.
There are hugs aplenty as Laila and Anton are eliminated and Ricky and Natalie scamper off upstage. Anton thinks the other couple were "annoyingly good" and wonders why they couldn't at least have messed it up a few times. Laila says it's been a dream dancing with Anton, and she's had a fantastic time. Anton echoes that she's been a joy to work with, and has never moaned or complained - though she did argue a few times. They head to centre stage for their last dance, and Bruce tells us that Lily Allen will be joining us for next week's semi-final. Anton wipes his eyes with the tails of his dress coat and twirls Laila, who gives a cute little curtsy to the audience. The other contestants come out to swamp them, and the singers completely biff the high part of 'Without You', and then we're out of there. See you next week for the semi-final!