Sunday, 24 October 2010

Harness your potential

Top 12: 23rd October 2010

Last week: Bruno was CREEPY AS FUCK, yogalates classes all over the country became oversubscribed thanks to Felicity, and Paul Daniels was eliminated, much to the relief of most viewers and, we suspect, to poor Ola Jordan. Coming up tonight: it's all about the tango and the charleston, although there will also be a lot of focus on the contestants mugging to the cameras for all they're worth. Oh, and Ann will be in a harness. Perhaps it'll give her the slightest inkling of how those pregnant prisoners might have felt. Titles!

We're live from Television Centre, and as always we have a Bruce, and we have a Tess. Daly Dresswatch: a floor-length figure-hugging black concoction covering one shoulder but not the other. Well, she's worn worse. It is nice to see us, to see us nice, and Bruce is sad that Paul Daniels was eliminated. Because now Bruce has go back to making old man jokes at his own expense, presumably. Tess reminds us that we've got an evening of tantalising tangos and charming charlestons ahead of us, so why not meet the stars of our show? Scott and Natalie, Tina and Jared (she's alive! she's alive!), Peter and Erin (and since we all know Peter's getting eliminated this week, the wardrobe department have planned their usual humiliating dismissal outfit for Erin, following in the grand tradition of the errant hair extensions and Snuffleupagus. Poor Erin), Jimi and Flavia, Patsy Zeta-Jones (seriously, check out that wig) and Robin, Matt and Aliona (Matt having apparently come dressed as the World One boss from Rolo To The Rescue), Kara and Artem, Pamela and James, Felicity and Vincent, Michelle and Temporary Partner Ian Waite (YAY!), Ann and Anton, and Gavin and Katya.

"There they all are! There they all are!" says Bruce. I begin to wonder if his optician is subcontracting work to the production team, and using this as an opportunity to see if Brucie's prescription needs updating yet. Apparently he's fine for now. Bruce calls the contestants a "dirty dozen" because we've got some tangos tonight, and an entire nation's collective mind wanders as Tess explains the scoring system. Our first couple tonight are Jimi and Flavia. My policy of not transcribing a Brucie joke if I get to the punchline before he does means that I shall not be repeating his opening joke, but I will point out that it makes Craig laugh and this, in turn, makes Bruce very happy. Shall we see Jimi and Flavia in training? Jimi was a bit shocked by some of the feedback for his wibbly rumba, and he dismisses Bruno's description of the routine as "neurotic" and mimes brushing all the negativity off his shoulders. Either that, or he's hoping to book a Head and Shoulders commercial when this series is over. He vows to be better this week, but he's not convinced by his charleston skills. Jimi takes Flavia to the premiere of his new film West Is West (seriously, did anyone know that was happening? Considering how well-received the first one was, you'd think a sequel might be a slightly bigger deal). An embarrassingly small group of fans chants his name. [Seriously. Could they not at least drag some randoms in to bulk out the numbers? - Carrie] There are times when it's best just not to bother with these things, aren't there? Various people beg Jimi for a shimi, and he obliges. He's pleased to be getting back to the day job, anyway.

Their charleston is to 'Do Your Thing' by Basement Jaxx, and for reasons best known to Jimi and Flavia, they have two little windows set up on the dancefloor, covered with drapes, and Jimi and Flavia indulge in a little shadow show for us behind them. Brace yourselves, folks, for this is but a drop in the gimmick ocean tonight. The routine is fun and lively, though I'm surprised that Jimi hasn't quite got the flailing limbs aspect of this dance down, because judging on his previous form, that's the part I thought he'd have no trouble with. There are definitely some timing issues where the two are not in sync, and while the bit of business with canes that Flavia has choreographed in the middle is fun, Jimi's not quite as sharp in it as he should be. There's a great bit where Flavia does a handstand and flips up onto Jimi's shoulders with him catching her torso, and it ends with them running back to Flavia's window for a spot of canoodling.

Bruce congratulates Flavia on her choreography and slurs over how fast the dance was. He welcomes the fabulous singers (who didn't do too bad a job on that song, actually), Dave Arch and his wonderful orchestra, and by way of introducing the judges, Bruce tells Craig that some of his comments last week were concise, witty, heartfelt and sometimes charming, "but if you don't pull yourself together and get back to normal, we'll find somebody else." Somewhere on the set of Flashdance: The Musical, Arlene's Strictly sense is tingling, so she drops whatever she's doing and rushes off to update her CV. Len tells us that the charleston is a performance dance more than anything (dude, we know, that's why it was the only one of Chris Hollins' routines that anyone really remembers), and it has to be full-on. He thinks Jimi really went for it, but he's not sure Jimi had the swivelling action in his ankles, and he wasn't keen on the windows either. "I bet you never liked Jackanory," opines Bruce. Surely he means Play School? [Like Bruce has ever watched either. The joke might actually have worked if he had got the children's TV programme right. - Carrie] Alesha says it wasn't technically perfect, but it was full of energy and lively, and she didn't mind the windows. Bruce harps on some more about the speed of the dance, and you might as well get used to him throwing his two penn'orth in with the judges, because he'll be doing it a lot tonight. Bruno says he wasn't sure if he was watching "Wisteria Lane or the Tardis". Snerk. He thought the character aspect was great, but Jimi lost timing on the cane section. Craig says Jimi needs to straighten his legs and feet during a cartwheel otherwise they look awwwwwwful, dahhhling, and agrees with Len on the lack of ankle swivel. He also calls out a problem with the hands on the monkey step and a general need for more precision, at which point Flavia does a Brendan and starts scampering off in the general direction of the Tess Circle, but this is when Craig's getting to the good bit and says that the energy and the facial expressions and story were fabulous. Jimi and Flavia jump for joy, and head to the Tess Circle for real this time.

Tess asked how it felt, and Jimi and Flavia both loved it and were really pleased with the crowd's reaction. Scores: Craig 6, Len 7, Alesha 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27. They are happy with that score.

Scott and Natalie are next, and dressed for a tango. Boo! When am I going to get to see a Natalie Lowe charleston? We see a clip of the hissy, over-enunciated way that Bruno says Scott's name, which Scott admits cracks him up. He was very excited to have been given nines last week, and also somewhat sssshhhhhocked-AH. Sorry, Bruno's way of saying things is contagious. Scott hugs his lovely wife, who says that she's having a nice holiday from her husband. Hee! The VT then transitions into "embarrassing dad" mode as Scott reveals that his son Zak is somewhat mortified at his pa dancing for nine million viewers on live TV every Saturday night. Also embarrassing? That Scott appears to hold his son's hand as he walks him to school. I'm not quite sure how old he is, but I'm guessing the answer is "old enough for that also to be something he wishes his dad would stop doing". In the school playground, a selection of milfs impersonate Bruno's handling of Scott's name and comment on his dancing prowess generally. Zak wishes his dad didn't have to wear tight shirts. "Why can't he wear normal clothes?" he sighs. Look at it this way, Zak: at least he can actually dance. Just be grateful your dad isn't Peter Shilton. Meanwhile, Scott's all "I'm doing this show, so WHATEVER, SON." Heh.

Their tango is to what Wikipedia informs me is 'Allegretto' by Bond, and Natalie has choreographed a superb, sharp, intimidating routine once again that's packed full of drama. Seriously, I'm this close to setting up a Natalie Lowe fansite at this point. It's full of passion and intrigue, and aside from a section where they're in the corner standing still for a fraction too long, making it pretty clear that something's amiss, it's a well-executed routine.

Len tells us that the tango is about passion, intensity, drama, clean lines and staccato moves, and he saw that for the most part, though there was "a tad of an incident in the corner", but he's in a devil-may-care mood and thinks that was the best dance of the series so far. Alesha says it was full of intent and Scott leads Natalie superbly. She feels like he means business. Bruce asks Alesha if the rather extravagant ornament she's wearing around her neck is actually a snake, and Alesha does the duck cackle. Ahh, I've missed that. "SSSSSSCCCOOOOTTTTTTTT!" spits Bruno. He declares the tango arrogant, yet slick and stealthy, and he thought they went from power and passion to romance beautifully, and thought they missed an embellishment in the corner, it's still the best dance so far. Craig thought it was strong, dynamic and made great use of the floor, and Scott handled the mood change very well. Natalie pulls another amazing face, and they head up to the Tess Circle.

Scott says that everything he's doing is down to Natalie, who's doing an amazing job. Tess asks him about the school run, and Scott says that he gets people coming up behind him and shouting it. Tess asks if he's aiming for a ten, but Scott's too smart to fall for that one. Scores: Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35. Scott and Natalie are pleased that their scores are going up every week. Tess tells Zak, watching at home, that "your dad did good". SUMMON THE GRAMMAR POLICE! Oh wait, that's only when Alesha slips up, isn't it?

Tina and Jared are next. Jared waves at the camera like the giant cornball he is. Bruce tells us that he asked Tina what made her so determined to get out of her sickbed and return to the dancefloor, and Tina's alleged reply was "The Jeremy Kyle Show." I'll admit it, I laughed at that one. In her VT, Tina is still covered in pox, the poor lamb, and talks about how Saturday was really difficult for her, not being able to take part. She says that she really thought the judges would love their rumba, and she felt even worse when she knew that Jared's enormous family had flown over to see him. Luckily, she got the all-clear from the doctor and is no longer contagious, though she still has the pox. Jared thinks this is a good routine to come back to after being sick because it's so much fun.

They're dancing to 'You Give A Little Love' from Bugsy Malone, with Tina as Tallulah, apparently. They've set the goofinessometer up to eleven, and their natural charm does them a lot of favours here, though there's a section near the beginning where Tina is clearly off the beat - and that's a shame, because we saw the same section in rehearsals and she had it perfectly then. There's a section where they grab each other by the waist with one of them upside down and do the continuous cartwheel thing, though Tina doesn't really straighten her legs out enough and it looks a bit sloppy. It's still a fun routine to watch, though.

Alesha opens for the judges and tells Tina that she threw herself into it, and it was springy and cheeky, and declares it Tina's best dance so far. Bruno calls Tina "a cute little flapper" (heh) but thought it needed slightly more energy and precision at times. Bruce is all "BUT CHICKEN POX." Craig loved the progressive cartwheel and the approach to the whole thing, but the footwork let them down, and her timing went out at the beginning. "Yes, just a little," says Bruce. SHUT UP, BRUCE. Len thought the routine was very sweet, and loath as he is to agree with Craig, the footwork could've been better, but it was fun and entertaining. Tina tells Bruce that the make-up people strategically placed beauty spots over her remaining pox. Heh.

Up in the Tess Circle, Tess congratulates Tina and tells her they missed her. Tina says she's very happy to be back, and being absent has made her realise how much she enjoys it, and she wants to enjoy the rest of the show, however long it lasts. Scores: Craig 7, Len 7, Alesha 8, Bruno 7 for a total of 29. It's a personal best for Tina and Jared. Tess cracks a "knocked the spots off the competition" joke. One of these days someone's going to lamp her, I just know it. [It'll be Kendal. - Carrie]

Vincent and Felicity are next. Felicity smoulders at him, and Vincent tries to meet her on that front, but fails. We're reminded of Felicity's ultra-bendy rumba from last week, and she's thrilled to be doing the tango this week. Felicity's inability to tell her left from her right becomes a problem again in this week's rehearsals. Vincent's ingenious solution? He gives her some legwarmers and wraps a banana in one and an apple in the other, and substitutes "apple" and "banana" for left and right in his instructions. It seems to work, though Vincent points out they can't actually use apples and bananas on the night.

Felicity begins the dance in front of the judges' podium, using it as a bar. There are some cocktails resting on top of it, ostensibly as props for the dance, but I rather think Bruno just didn't realise the cameras would be on them at this point and he forgot to hide his stash. Felicity has a fur shawl on, and Vincent sidles up to her as the band plays 'Csárdás' by Vittorio Monti. Felicity relieves him of his hat, and drops her shawl behind her as they tango to the centre of the dancefloor. She's actually a lot better this week - there's still the occasionally jerky ragdoll movement but her transitions are much, much smoother and as a result, the routine is more enjoyable to watch. It's my favourite of her routines on this show by far, and I hope this signals a general improvement in her dancing from now on. Clearly the apple/banana training regime has worked wonders. It ends with a bit of business as Felicity rejects him and returns to the "bar", but they end up having a smooch, which she shields from the cameras with his hat. Hilariously, when they reappear, Vincent has lipstick all over his lips, and Felicity somehow has some on her chin. What were they doing behind there?

Bruno liked the storytelling, rather emphatically. Craig describes the story as "a lonely woman sat at a bar drinking cocktails, being seduced by a hairy, short Italian." HA! Luckily he liked that story very much, but he felt that Felicity was too up on her toes in the dance. He did enjoy the floor spin, though. Len also loved the story of "the strumpet sitting at the bar, then the Italian oils his way across". Hee hee hee. However, he thought there was a lack of fire and attack in the dance, but overall it was a good job. Alesha loved the chemistry, and while it lacked movement at times, she too enjoyed the storytelling of it all.

Vincent and Felicity skip up to the Tess Circle, and Felicity admits that she was surprised at all the attention her splits got last week. Tess tells her they're going to expect splits every week now, and Felicity's look of horror speaks volumes. Felicity says she's been waiting to do the tango all her life. Vincent does a spot more eyebrow acting for us. Scores: Craig 7, Len 7, Alesha 7, Bruno 8 for a total of 29. Felicity wipes the lipstick off Vincent's face with her thumb. Hee.

Patsy and Robin are next. We revisit all of the equine imagery that she was subjected to; Patsy was just relieved not to have been likened to an elephant. She's intrigued to see what animal she'll be this week - as it happens, Robin wants her to do a step called "the peck", or as Patsy calls it, "the funky chicken". She's reluctant to do this move, as she feels she's just giving the judges more ammunition. Amid all of this, Robin wears increasingly terrifying vests. They elect not to include the move after all. Then Patsy goes to the recording of Chris Moyles' Quiz Night *vomits* and he, Jonathan Ross, and Louie Spence were winding her up about what a bad dancer she is. I'm surprised she didn't respond by pointing out to Chris Moyles what an appalling human being he is, but perhaps Patsy has better manners than I have.

They're dancing to the 'Hot Honey Rag' from Chicago. It's a fun, gawky routine, and Patsy's going for it, but her legs aren't, which means that she has a tendency to make some really ugly shapes. Her timing seems to have improved though, and she deserves some credit for her willingness to look quite so ridiculous, because this is the maddest charleston of the evening so far.

Craig thought she got off to an amazing start, but this dance is about stamina, and he felt like she started to get heavy and sluggish towards the end. "I'm middle-aged, darling," Patsy expains. Heh. Len thinks that Patsy's gone from a horse to a thoroughbred, and Patsy gives him a kiss for his trouble. He thinks it was a full-on, entertaining performance from start to finish. Alesha loves the look on Patsy, and she thinks Patsy nailed some moves if not all of them, but she's having a good time, and that's very important for the charleston. Bruno says she looks gorgeous, "like Catherine Zeta-Jenkins". We'll get to that in a minute. Bruno tells her that this was the most true-to-form of the charlestons, but some of the moves were sloppy. Bruce clarifies the whole "Catherine Zeta-Jenkins" thing, and Bruno explains that he meant midway between Catherine Zeta-Jones and Katherine Jenkins, and at this point I'm absolutely sure he necked those cocktails from Felicity's tango the second the cameras were off him.

Patsy tells Tess that she's shocked to still be here, and thanks everyone who's kept her in thus far because she really is trying to improve. Tess tells her that she's loving the wig. Patsy explains that it's a character thing, and it's nice for her to get to play somebody else, being an actress and all. Tess asks if Patsy might consider a West End musical now, and Patsy says that people would need "ear plugs and eye masks" were she to do so. Heh. Scores: Craig 6, Len 8 (Patsy nearly faints), Alesha 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 28.

It's time for Gavin and Katya to show us their tango. Last week's rumba did not go well, though the best part of the clip is Alesha's look of absolute disgust when Craig awarded it a three. Gavin says that he was afraid of being voted off in front of his idol, Peter Andre, and recalls being a teenager and being transfixed by Peter's body during the 'Mysterious Girl' video. Is there anything you'd like to tell us, Gavin? I was expecting a high level of showmance this year, but I really didn't see Gavin/Peter Andre coming. Peter's flattered by Gavin's attention. Gavin hates being mediocre, and really wants to improve. He bench presses Katya while spitting out the names of the other male contestants. He hopes that the tango could be his forte. Katya explains to him that the story is about how they want to be together, but they can't. Gavin looks scared. Katya laughs. I love these two. They are so getting my vote after Michelle goes next week.

Their tango is to 'Toxic' by Britney Spears, and they begin on the stairs, and Gavin has to support Katya while walking backwards, and stumbles, which doesn't set an amazing precedent, it has to be said. He's trying really hard in this one, even making a passable effort at a tango face, but it's fairly clear that Katya's leading from the back seat, as it were, because he's really struggling to keep up. It's a shame they're really not giving us anything to distract us from the mess the singers are making of such an awesome pop song.

Len thought Gavin's posture was good, he had flexed knees and good body contact, which are all difficult things to get, but the performance side of things let him down. "Every dance's got a character, and you've got to portray that character," Len explains. Alesha thinks it was "not bad", but Gavin looked out of his depth and vulnerable, which is not appropriate for a tango. Bruno says it sounds like they're having a go at him, but they're doing it because they like him: there are some moments where everything comes together (though he concedes that "they're very short"), but then it all crumbles. The judges want to see "flames, not sparks". Katya says that it's only been four weeks. Craig says that he wants to see some sign of aggression or leadership and an appropriate facial expression. He says that he knows how nervous Gavin is, but he's better in hold than he is out of hold, so there was some good there.

Katya leads Gavin up to the Tess Circle, and Tess mimes Jimi's "brushing it off" manoeuvre. Katya says that nerves got to Gavin tonight. Gavin hopes he'll get another chance next week. He cringes that he talked himself up in his VT only to come out like that. "Never mind, I'll just have to try again, hopefully," he whimpers. Seriously, he is like the biggest woobie ever. Scores: Craig 5 (Katya reaction: smiles, says "it's an improvement!"), Len 6, Alesha 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 23.
Midway leaderboard: Scott's at the top, Tina and Felicity tying for second, then Patsy, then Jimi, and Gavin at the bottom.

Peter and Erin are next. Peter says that he was very pleased with last week's performance, overall, and Erin was thrilled that they got sevens. Peter says that everyone's getting on well together, and his former teammate Gary Lineker popped in with some tea. There are the obligatory football/dancing metaphors, and Gary observes that the charleston is HARD. He's sure that Peter's charleston will be "faultless. Ish."

They're dancing to 'Cabaret', which explains Erin's Sally Bowles getup, if not Peter's Super Mario-esque white gloves. Despite Erin's best efforts, the whole thing's a mess - Peter hasn't got a clue what he's doing and spends most of it looking to Erin waiting for a cue, and most of the time he's off the beat. I'm disappointed that the fabulous singers stick with the scripted lyrics and do not amend them to "when I go, I'm going like Er-in!". Because let's be honest, Erin's going this week. Though she might not have if she'd had the lyrics changed. That was the one thing that might have actually saved this routine.

Alesha liked the lifts and the braces, but the timing issues were serious, and she thinks Peter's body just doesn't really understand the charleston. Bruno is laughing, and says that Peter looked "like a penguin stuck in the mud". It's funny because it's true. There's talk about how Peter might recover next week, but we know he won't be here. Craig says he couldn't wait for it to finish, and adds "the white gloves were a big mistake - it magnified every detail that was wrong." Len admires Erin's outfit, but thinks the performance doesn't live up to it. Peter says it was a hard dance. Bruce says that we've all got dances that we're not suited for.

In the Tess Circle, Peter cops to the timing issues and says that it would never have been perfect. Tess asks if the football experience helps with the charleston. "No," is the answer. Scores: Craig 2 (Erin covers her face with her hat), Len 5, Alesha 6, Bruno 4 for a total of 17. Ouch. Bye, Peter!

Pamela and James are the next couple to dance. Billy Connolly is in the audience. Why is he there? Is one of the contestants married to him? WE MUST BE TOLD. Pamela's rumba went well last week, and Pamela ruins things for me somewhat by discussing the tango in cod-psychological terms. Pamela injures James while practising her kicks. I approve wholeheartedly. Billy comes to rehearsals, and Pamela suspects this is a mistake when Billy starts taking tips from James on how to handle her. Billy seems particularly keen on the "ten pressups" concept. Poor Pamela.

Their tango is to 'Love Is The Drug'. I very much approve of this song choice. It's a very sharp and impressive routine with lots of spinning and kicks, though I find Pamela's tango face a bit sour-looking. She doesn't really help her case when one section of the dance sees the camera following her as she strides up the dancefloor and she drops her tango-face for a spot of Pamela's Honey Roast Ham Face when she passes the judges. I do like you, Pamela, but you're really going to need to rein that in. Still, the choreography is slick and the execution is strong, as it always is with these two.

Bruno likens Pamela to Catwoman, and admires her clean dancing and her precision, though she needs to watch the tightness in her shoulders. Craig says it was clean and precise, but it didn't have the theatricality that he would have liked. He advises Pamela to hyperextend a bit more through the backbone. Len says that all of Pamela's dances have been to a high level, and this was no exception, but there were posture issues. Alesha loved the sharpness and the timing, and Pamela's ability to go from "soft and sincere" last week to a strong feline this week.

Up in the Tess Circle, Pamela asks Tess who won, if the tango is an argument. Tess thinks Pamela did. James will be making Tess do fifty push-ups after the show for that. Pamela says this is very different to her day job, and she's thinking she'll only go back to her day job if she can continue dressing like this. Also, Billy likes mocking her costumes, but he's wearing charleston shoes this week in a gesture of support. Except she's not doing a charleston. Still, it's the thought that counts. Scores: Craig 8, Len 8, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 34. A good score, but for the first time in the competition, Pamela won't be top of the leaderboard this week.

Oh good lord: time for Matt (and his porntastic moustache) and Aliona. Bruce makes an ill-advised "bullshit" joke, but manages to avoid saying the actual word. Hey, it's more than Bruno's managed. Matt was pleased with his performance last week. He's taken Aliona off to his farm for a taste of his life, and they go round feeding the animals and having fun with tractors. They rehearse in a field, either because Matt doesn't actually have a farmhouse, or because they're both show-offs. Then they dance in a hay barn. These guys are going to own in line-dancing week, if nothing else.

Right, so their charleston is circus-themed, for reasons best known to Aliona, and begins with Matt on a unicycle while Aliona parades around with a parasol. They're dancing to 'Forty-Second Street', and this is easily the most impressive of the charlestons so far, in terms of ambition and technical ability, but something about it just doesn't work for me. I suspect it's largely related to the moustache. Still, Matt's Blue Peter history is serving him well here, because where else can you learn to gurn like a good'un in the way that you can on that show? They have the same problem with the progressive cartwheel that everyone else seems to have had (legs not straight enough, overall effect a bit sloppy), but in general, it's a very impressive effort.

Craig thought it was not perfect ("BOOOO!" scream the audience, and seriously, if you're booing at "not perfect", then you really need to get out more), and there were some timing issues and a slip at one point, but on the whole, he loved the routine. Len thought there were a couple of "moments", but it was the best charleston of the night, and Matt's best dance. Alesha felt it was effortless, and that it felt like she was transported to a different era. Bruno enjoyed the showmanship and the physical theatre aspect of it - there were mistakes, but it was a difficult routine in the first place.

They travel triumphantly up to the Tess Circle, where Tess suggests that all that country air must have been good. Tess wonders what's next - fire-eating? YES. TRY THAT. ESPECIALLY YOU, TESS. Scores are in: Craig 9, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno (winning my heart forever) 8, for a total of 35. There are boos, but that was epic from Bruno, so I don't even care.

Michelle is next, and Bruce explains that Brendan will not be partnering her this week, as he has had to return to New Zealand following a family bereavement. A handful of numbskulls chorus "awwww", like, YES, THAT IS ENTIRELY AN APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO SOMEONE'S DEATH. Fucking hell. In Brendan's absence, Michelle will be partnered with Ian Waite. Which means we get an Ian Waite tango! FUCK YES THIS IS BETTER THAN SEX. [Word. - Carrie] In her VT, Michelle says that she deserved to be in the bottom two last week, but Brendan did not. She was excited to be declared safe, and knows she can do better. She's sad that Brendan had to leave, but family comes first, but Brendan recommended Ian to help her out. [I love this. Like there's a huge pool of male pro dancers sending in their CVs to take over for one week. - Carrie] Ian thinks Michelle's had a lot of criticism and knockbacks, but her spirits are high. I suspect it's not just her spirits. Michelle thinks she's grown this week, and she wants to make Brendan proud. "I want him to come back home knowing he's got a job!" she says. Hee.

Their tango is to 'Killer' by Adamski (AMAZING), and I don't know whether Michelle was naturally suited to this dance or whether Ian's just really worked her hard this week, but the improvement is very noticeable. There are still obvious flaws (when he throws her back, she struggles to go limp and ends up looking a bit like a ragdoll), but her timing is better, her movements are sharper, and she seems more sure of herself. There's the occasional fluff in her footwork, but I'm heartened to see that she is actually capable of pulling off a decent dance. It makes me feel like my hope was not quite as ill-founded as it first seemed. [I wonder how much of the improvement is Waite-related? Also, LOVE Ian's tango shouts. - Carrie]

Alesha thinks that the dance was full of character, and that Michelle has done really well to cope with all the changes this week. She thinks Michelle's getting into her stride, and should keep it up. Bruno thinks she was stronger and more focused, and while there were a few mistakes, on the whole it was much better. Craig says that Michelle's balance is still a problem, and there was one bit that went wrong. Ian cops to the mistake being his fault at this point. Craig says that this is irrelevant because the lady should follow the man, and I think that's a little unfair on Michelle, who could barely walk three weeks ago. Craig says that being in hold and doing the tango is definitely Michelle's thing. Michelle is excited that she gets to be held by two men. Hee. Len says it was gallant of Ian to admit to the mistake: "I'm sure Brendan wouldn't have done that." Snerk. He thinks Michelle was comfortable, but it was all in and out - sometimes her footwork and posture were good, at other times they were not. Michelle tells Bruce that Ian has been amazing, and Bruce tells Ian that it's wonderful to have him back, even if only for a short time. HINT FUCKING HINT BRING IAN BACK NEXT YEAR DAMMIT.

Up in the Tess Circle, Michelle says that Ian's been a great partner and hopefully if she comes back next week, Brendan's going to have a much stronger partner. Ian says that he didn't want her to be too good because Brendan would never forgive him. Hee. He thinks Michelle's done a fantastic job, all things considered. Scores: Craig 6, Len 7, Alesha 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27. Not too shabby, but I think Michelle needs higher scores than that to keep her out of trouble, to be honest.

Our penultimate couple of the evening are Kara and Artem. Artem is wearing a hat at a jaunty angle. Kara enjoyed last week because her family and friends were in the audience watching. Kara says that the whole Strictly experience has been very crazy, and she's hardly seen her parents even though she lives with them, so she takes Artem home to meet them, at which point Twitter exploded with "OH MY GOD THEY MUST BE DOING IT", and I'm a little concerned at just how susceptible the viewers are to obvious showmance tactics. Anyway, Artem likes Kara's parents, and the parents bring out the baby photos, as parents must.

Their charleston is to 'Put A Lid On It', and Kara's dancing is excellent as always, and she's got the flimsy, slippery side of the charleston down perfectly. My concern with this routine is that she doesn't seem to be able to summon the requisite level of goofiness to really pull it off - this is a dance that you sell with personality rather than skill, and I think Kara's still slightly too self-conscious to go far enough to really make that work. There are some fantastic displays of acrobatics that go a long way towards making that up, though.

Bruno loves her costume and the jazzy feel to the dance, but he thinks she could've put more welly into it. And "more sex". Craig loved all the Josephine Baker references at the beginning, and most of it was there, but he would've liked a bit more quirk. Len thinks it was "competent", but it lacked a bit of impact. He would like more welly too. Alesha agrees that it needed more fire, but Kara's footwork was incredible. Bruce tells Kara that the footwork was beautiful. I don't think he realises that the average viewer is about as interested in his judging as they are in Alesha's.

Tess loves Kara's costume, and Kara says she really enjoyed the routine, despite her initial misgivings. Tess tries to fuel the showmance fire, as per the terms of her contract, by saying that you have to know someone very well to play their bum like a bongo. Scores: eights all round for a total of 32. I think that was a tad undermarked, to be honest, but Kara and Artem are happy with that score.

Finally, it's time for Ann and Anton. Bruce says that tonight we'll be introducing a third style of tango to go with the ballroom tango and the Argentine tango: the Ann Widdecombe tango. Dear Lord. Ann says that she thought her quickstep would be a farce, but it went surprisingly well. She says that they have big plans for the tango, and those plans transpire to involve a harness. Ann's ascent is lovingly captured by the cameras, right up to the point where they film her crotch as she hovers overhead. I really did not need to see that, ever. Ann feels somewhat unsafe in the harness. She thinks the judges will not be impressed by the harness. Anton thinks their tango will be "magical".

Fuck me, where to begin? Ann is in a harness, suspended over the dancefloor. Anton is doing his very best Milk Tray Man impression, on the stairs up to the Tess Circle with a rose clenched between his teeth. There is dry ice, and Ann is lowered from the balcony, making various "flying" poses by flapping her arms gently. Anton dances up to her as she escapes from the harness (the camera does not show this moment: anyone want to bet she needed a bit of help?) and then they tango. After a fashion. Ann is rather stumbly, but keeping up - just about. I really wish she'd stop looking at her feet, though. Mercifully, it ends.

Ann fails to find her mark yet again, and Bruce guides her back. Before Craig can speak, Ann tells him that since the Ark Royal has been decommissioned, she thought she'd give him the Flying Fortess. Craig thought it was more like the dancing hippos - the beginning was gorgeous and ethereal - "and then you landed, darling, and that's I'm afraid where the problems began." Len thought seeing Ann Widdecombe in a truss being lowered from the sky was worth 50% of the licence fee. He saw good placement of the feet and some basic steps. Alesha says Ann is taking the show to a new level, and she loves her. Bruno thinks it's truly out of this world: "was it a bird? Was it a plane? No, it's Starship Widdecombe!" He thinks he tangoed like ET's Mum, though. Hee. Ann thought she was more like Dumbo: "even elephants fly."

Ann and her lopsided breasts lead Anton up to the Tess Circle, and Tess wants to know whose idea the harness was. Ann says that it was Anton's, because he thought she'd better fly since she couldn't dance. Ann doesn't like heights, and won't even go to the top of a double decker bus (so you're safe from her up there, recently escaped pregnant prisoners!) but she thinks anyone would be tempted to fly down to the dancefloor if they saw Anton there. Scores: Craig 3, Len "for entertainment, 7", Alesha 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 21. A personal best for Ann, who was pleased because she was aiming for 19. Tess asks what they'll do to top it next week if they survive. Anton suggests a bungee jump. [Len would give them full marks for that. For fuck's sake. - Carrie]

Leaderboard: Scott and Natalie and Matt and Aliona are in joint first place, while Pamela and James are behind them, then Kara and Artem, then a tie between Tina and Jared and Felicity and Vincent, then Patsy and Robin, then another tie between Jimi and Flavia and Michelle and Ian, then Gavin and Katya, then Ann and Anton, and Peter and Erin in last place. The lines are opened, and there's a video recap of tonight's performances, for those of you who can't even remember where you were when this show started. And that's it - someone goes home on Sunday, but who will it be? Hint: Peter.

Results: 24th October 2010

So, last night there was something in the air in the ballroom. It was Ann. Jimi, Peter, and Gavin all got a frosty reception from the judges, but who will be kicked out in the cold tonight? This is the Strictly Come Dancing results - pre-recordeeeeeed! (Doesn't have the same ring as "liiiive!", does it?)

We open with a routine from the professionals - Katya, Flavia, Aliona, Kristina and Ola all sporting military chic to 'In The Mood', joined by James, Vincent, Jared, Robin and Artem for a spot of jiving that segues into Christina Aguilera's 'Candyman' at which point the women all play club singer while the men pretend to ogle from the side. Some attempts are more convincing than others (but points for effort, Jared). Let's face it, it wouldn't be a series of Strictly without some sort of "wartime was aces, wasn't it?"-themed routine, so at least we're getting it out of the way early. [Whatever happened to the pro dance troupe? - Carrie]

Tess is wearing a white outfit with enormous Thunderbirds-style shoulders that makes her look like Bonnie Tyler. She displays a total absence of comic timing with a joke about Ann coming down to earth with a bump, and introduces the judges. Claudia's up in the Tess Circle, teasing an Argentine tango showcase and Neil Diamond still to come. But first, we must relive last night with added judges' commentary: Peter Shilton was not good, thinks Craig. Peter thinks they were too nitpicky. Craig was appalled by Ann, but Len's warming to her for entertainment value. Alesha thinks Gavin seems confident until he starts dancing. Gavin says that he doesn't know what to do with his nerves. Bruno thinks Jimi's performance was very good. Jimi's all "I don't give a FUCK about the technical side". [Nob. - Carrie] Len feels that Michelle never gives a performance despite being a POP STAR. Craig and Bruno launch into a bizarre version of 'Survivor'. Bruno thinks Patsy's great when she lets her hair (/wig) down. Len thinks Tina's performance was too stage-school, end-of-term. Oh, is stage school an insult on this show too now? She's got to up her game, he thinks. Bruno likes that Felicity is breaking through. Craig thinks Kara doesn't engage. Bruno can't believe that Pamela is so good at everything. Alesha thinks Matt deserved to be top of the leaderboard. Matt says, a little huffily, of Bruno's score "that everyone's entitled to give an eight", then adds "we didn't have to say anything, the audience said it for us." Oh fuck off, you smug dick. Alesha thinks he should be grateful for an eight because an eight is a great score. Preach, Alesha. They don't appear to actually comment on Scott and Natalie. Poor Scott and Natalie.

Tess has the first set of results. The first couple safe is Gavin and Katya. Katya is ECSTATIC. Scott and Natalie are also safe. Matt and Aliona will be back next week, as will Tina and Jared. Patsy and Robin are also safe (another amazing reaction from Patsy). And the first couple in the bottom two tonight is Michelle and Ian. They look like they were expecting that, to be honest.

Tess turns to the judges, and asks if Michelle should be in the bottom two. Bruno thinks she improved a lot last night, and having to change partners is very difficult, but he thinks she did very well and showed progression. Len is asked about last night's dances, and he says they're both performance dances, and all of the couples coped really well. Except all the ones we just saw you slagging off, eh Len?

Claudia is with the celebs who are definitely safe. She's very amused and a little scared by Matt's moustache. Matt says that the entire process never gets any easier. Claudia can't stare at his moustache any more. Seriously, I doubt she gets paid enough for that.

Another pro dance which does not involve the Professional Dance Troup, which confuses me slightly. This time it's Kristina, Flavia, Katya, Artem, Vincent and Robin doing an Argentine tango around and on top of some perspex boxes. Vincent and Flavia get their obligatory showcase spot, of course, though there are also excellent solo contributions from Katya and Artem, and Robin and Kristina.

Back in the Tess Circle, Claudia asks Gavin if he thought he'd be going home. Gavin says he thought he'd be in the bottom two, and he's concerned that he keeps making the same mistakes and "it's wearing a bit thin now." I love him. He reminds me of Joy from Britain's Next Top Model. I can't wait for him to go "oh God, not her again" when he's sent to talk to Tess.

Speaking of Tess, she's got some more results. Ann and Anton are safe, and so are Pamela and James. Kara and Artem are through, as are Felicity and Vincent. So that just leaves Jimi and Flavia and Peter and Erin in jeopardy, and the couple in the bottom two is...Peter and Erin. Well, duh. So Jimi and Flavia are through, and Jimi gives a thumbs-up to the cameras.

Tess asks Craig if this is the right result. Craig thinks not: Peter should be in the bottom two with Ann, not Michelle. There is booing. "I've got to wave the dance flag, that's why we're up here," he says. Alesha's asked if the boys are getting left behind. No, she says. The girls are keeping the boys on their toes, but the boys are strong, and it's anyone's game still.

Claudia's with the two couples in the danger zone. Michelle thinks she has more to give, but whatever happens, she will take her experience with her and be a stronger performer. Peter would like to stay, and if he went out tonight, he'd feel that he didn't perform as well as he could've done. He thinks it's a very strong competition this year, and it doesn't take much to fall to the bottom.

And then there is Neil Diamond, with a special version of 'Midnight Train To Georgia'. Said special version appears to involve leaving a massive Pinteresque pause between each clause in the lyrics. It feels more like a spoken word rendition than a song, or the sort of thing you'd hear at a poetry slam. I keep expecting everyone to snap their fingers appreciatively. Robin and Kristina appear halfway through to do an exhibition dance, which is a blessed relief from what is fast becoming a Midnight Trainwreck To Georgia, quite frankly.

Time for exit VTs! Michelle doesn't want to leave because it wouldn't be fair to Brendan. Peter has been in a few relegation battles in football and survived, and hopes to do the same again. These VTs really are oddly short, and don't really make for good recapping fodder. Sorry.

Tess is with the bottom two, and reminds them of some of the judges' comments. The couple leaving tonight is Peter and Erin, like we all knew it would be. Tess apologises for Peter being given the red card. Peter says he's more disappointed for Erin as he didn't dance as well as he could tonight. He's had a great experience, and loved every minute. He will miss the other contestants, but not the judges. Tess laughs insincerely. He's enjoyed being taught by Erin, and he's had a brilliant time.

They take the dancefloor for their last dance, and Claudia appears to remind us all to watch It Takes Two, while Tess teases next week's spooky Hallowe'en special. Claudia invites Tess to do a rumba for their keeeep dancing moment, though it seems to be just the usual swaying. The band sing Abba's 'The Name Of The Game' and then the rest of the contestants arrive to say goodbye to Peter and Erin, and we're out of there. See you next week!


ros said...

So, last night there was something in the air in the ballroom. It was Ann.


Victoria Snelling said...

I wish Ian could replace Brendan for longer...

ht said...

Are they theming the dance out songs this year? They've all seemed quite appropriate so far.

ruth said...

Is it my imagination, or are there more instrumentals this year? Maybe the pros have worked out that the singers can't sing (and was it me, or where they totally out of tune at the beginning of the war is ace number?)

Angela Houwen said...

Couldn't agree with you more Victoria!! Ian will be joining MIchelle on ITT tonight.. YAY!!

As for the dance troupe.. They will perform on certain dates:

* 31 October
* 7 November
* 14 November
* 5 December
* 18 December