Sunday, 31 October 2010

Still not as terrifying as Tess's wardrobe

Top 11: 30th October 2010

We begin, as always, with a high framerate flashback to last week as Tess's voiceover explains that last week, some of the contestants reached new heights. Unfortunately, in Peter and Erin's case, they were new heights of SUCKING. Oh, and Ann was in a harness. I wonder how much they had to pay the crew member in charge of releasing her once she hit the dancefloor not to, you know, "accidentally forget". To be honest, since they went to all that effort of winching her up, I was hoping they'd do something slightly more exciting with her, like in that episode of The Simpsons where Marge is playing Blanche in Streetcar! The Musical and the director is trying to symbolise her descent into madness. Peter was deservedly booted after a truly terrifying charleston, apparently having not realised that the Hallowe'en special wasn't until this week. Did I mention that? Oh yeah, it's Hallowe'en, and the gimmicks are going to be out in full, cobwebby force. If you're one of those people who's very concerned about the SANCTITY OF THE DAHNCE, you might want to take a sedative now, because it's not going to get any better tonight. Of course, if you're the sort of person (like me) who loves it when this show is on crack, then you're in for a treat. Either way, this is Strictly Come Dancing 2010!

Titles. To be honest, until I see these every week I sort of forget that Goldie was ever on this show. Poor Goldie. And because it's Halloween, the glitterball turns into a giant, mischievous-looking pumpkin. Unless that's just what Tess is wearing this week? I mean, I wouldn't put it past her.

Oh wait, no, it's just a graphical effect - which also turns the tiny CGI version of the contestants that we can see in the background into skeletons. Cree-pee. The studio is decked out with cobwebs and chandeliers like it's been hired out for a Meatloaf video or something, and we open with a pro number to Muse's 'Supermassive Black Hole' involving Artem, Robin, Brendan, James and...Matthew Cutler? What's he doing here? I mean, it's not like I'm not pleased to see him, but...there weren't enough professional dancers who were already on the show's payroll? They couldn't have got someone in from the poor, forgotten professional dance troupe? Darren Bennett has bills to pay, you guys! Anyway, they're all either in vests or entirely topless, and it's only at this point that it occurs to me just how many of the male pros have a sizeable tattoo on one of their arms. Is that part of the hazing process you have to endure to get on the show? Anyway, the routine seems largely paso doble-inspired, and sure enough, they all get their capes out before long. There is a serious amount of kohl being used on these guys, as well, to the extent that there might be some kind of nationwide shortage next week. Although it does add fuel to the general understanding that men look hotter when they've got about three inches of guyliner on. I don't understand it and I don't feel proud for feeling that way, I'm just reporting the facts here.

The pros depart and Bruce and Tess enter to thunderclaps and maniacal laughter - presumably from the costume department, who can't believe they've actually been given a legitimate reason to make Tess look terrible this week. Daly Dresswatch, then: a sequinned full-body number that's split right up to her cooch, with a belt that's made to look a bit like a thunderbolt. I still maintain the pumpkin costume would've been a better idea. Still, at least her tits are properly supported this week, which is something, right? It is nice to see us, to see us whoooooooooo! You know, like a scary ghost. I'm not sure that entirely worked as a concept, but points to them for trying, I guess. Although it does kind of sound like the crowd's booing the show before Craig's even said anything. Bruce reads out a "complaint" that suggests that Ann Widdecombe's presence insults the very name of ballroom dancing. And it's from John Sergeant. I must admit, I was kind of hoping for the punchline of that joke to be Fiona Phillips. Or Anton.

It's time to meet the stars of our show! Scott Maslen covered in cobwebs and Natalie Lowe dressed as the unholy lovechild of Ursula The Sea Witch and Ariel The Little Mermaid. Tina O'Brien and Jared Murillo, dressed as Danny and Sandy from Grease as they would appear in a Twilight crossover fanfic. Jimi Mistry and Flavia Cacace, the former having apparently dressed as Rav Wilding for Halloween. Patsy Kensit and Robin Windsor, dressed as Kylie Minogue and the Incredible Hulk. Matt Baker and Aliona Vilani, dressed as Gerard Way and an Ikea lampshade. Kara Tointon and Artem Chigvintsev, dressed as Christine and the Phantom of the Opera - boo, it's no fun when they essentially look like what they're supposed to. Pamela Stephenson and James Jordan, dressed as Claire and H from Steps performing 'Better The Devil You Know' (and the amount of red facepaint on James makes me assume the opening number was pre-recorded, otherwise the make-up artists on this show work with superhuman speed). [They pre-rec the pro dance bits about an hour before the live broadcast on a Saturday this series. - Factual Carrie] Felicity Kendal and Vincent Simone, dressed as an elegant older lady and a charming Italian - again, boo when your costumes give me NOTHING to mock. Michelle Williams and Brendan Cole, both dressed like Mr Tumble from Something Special. Ann Widdecombe and Anton DuBeke, dressed like a Christmas tree decoration and...Anton Du Beke. And finally, Gavin Henson and Katya Virshilas, dressed as "dear God, we might be in trouble this week, so it's time for Gavin to get his tits out."

Bruce tells us that we'll be seeing five different dances tonight: the paso doble, the Argentine tango, the Viennese waltz, the jive, "and whatever Ann Widdecombe and Anton are supposed to do." Surely the punchline of that joke should've been "whatever Ann and Anton are doing"? The very stability of that gag rests on them turning up and not doing what they're supposed to, after all. Tess bores through the score system, and then it's time for our first couple, Pamela and James.

In their VT, James is shown backstage insulting Pamela, which he claims was him deliberately winding her up to make sure she was suitably fiery for their tango. Somewhere at home, Georgina Bouzova is all "oh, now I get why he kept calling me a fat cow! ...hang on a minute, we never got to do the tango, did we?" Bruno commented on a slight issue with Pamela's posture, and backstage James told her that he was proud of her, apart from the posture. I think James Jordan and my mother have a lot in common. [Shocker. And still a Guardian blog troll tells me that James is LOVELY and I am the nasty one. - Carrie] Pamela interviews that BILLY CONNOLLY, TO WHOM SHE IS MARRIED, has told some of their friends what she's doing, so we get a quick insert from a sunburnt-looking Robin Williams wishing Pamela good luck and making a joke about her norks. Their jive rehearsal does not seem to be getting off to the best of starts, as Pamela's kicks seem more suited to Riverdance and James looks at the camera all "you gotta be shittin' me, woman." Pamela's looking forward to the jive, and James bullies her through her tuition as normal. Still, I'm sure she can get acres of column inches from the Guardian about how she secretly enjoys being insulted on national television because that's what we all fantasise about in sexual scenarios, don't we? In fairness to James, Pamela says that this is indeed the best way to motivate her. James says that he wants to win, and he's not here to have fun. He came here to win!

They're jiving to 'Devil Gate Drive', and they begin on the balcony as Pamela strikes some Betty Boop poses, and James mimes sticking his devil's trident into her tush. The timing's a little off here and Pamela doesn't react at quite the right moment, but she serves it up with an extra couple of slices of dry-cured HAM when she eventually does. (Don't get me wrong, I love Pamela, but she really is a ham, and that instinct of hers has not been reined in at all this week.) They jive down the stairs at opposite ends of the balcony (not easy to do, and Pamela seems to cope with it very well) and meet in the middle of the dancefloor to do some kicks, and it's all going fairly well so far. There's a nice section where they do some turns together, but then James tries to pull her through his legs and this is where it starts to go wrong - Pamela's feet aren't together, so she sort of scrambles through and lands a bit awkwardly, and by this point she's off the beat for the kicks and flicks section, and while there's a reasonably level of precision in her kicks, they're a bit ungainly and her balance seems off. They get it back by the end, but the errors were pretty glaring. Also, the band were eviscerating that song, which I guess is at least seasonally appropriate for Halloween.

James tells Bruce that one of his fake teeth fell out during the routine. Bruce welcomes the fabulous singers (!), Dave Arch and his wonderful orchestra. Dave Arch is wearing a hat and a cloak. Perhaps it's cold back there tonight? We also have our judges, who are sat behind a desk covered in cobwebs, pumpkins and fake spiders. Bruce asks Alesha if she's afraid of spiders, and Alesha tells him that she's more afraid of Bruno, who's currently cackling maniacally. You know, more so than usual. Len says it as a solid performance and the pivot section was fantastic, but she got into a pickle halfway through. Alesha congratulates Pamela on jiving down the stairs and says that there were really good basic steps, but she's not sure this dance suits Pamela's style because it was a bit messy and tippy-toey and lacked the punch she expects from a jive. However, Pamela danced with conviction, and Alesha enjoyed it. Bruno tells Pamela that she was having so much fun she forgot the steps, which meant she wasn't as sharp and clean as usual. There's lots of hissing from the audience - guys, Bonfire Night is next week. Craig tells Pamela she has great musicality, but the kicks and flicks were laboured. He points out her feet being apart on the slidethrough, and he agrees with Alesha that the dance doesn't really suit Pamela. "But it's FUN!" Pamela screeches. I think she's been taking Michelle's medication.

Up in the Tess Circle, Pamela says that she's spent so many years dressing up her kids for Halloween, and this time it's her turn. Tess asks if there's anything scarier than dancing in front of 11 million viewers, and Pamela says yes, "falling down the stairs in front of 11 million viewers." Lady's got a point. James says he thinks that Pamela "done an amazing job this evening". SUMMON THE GRAMMAR POLICE! Tess reassures the children at home that those aren't James's real scary eyes or devil horns. Aren't they, Tess? AREN'T THEY? Then in the first of many segments tonight that Tess will probably want to leave off her showreel, she tells Pamela that Craig said it didn't suit her, but Robin Williams is in her corner. Pamela: "...what?" Tess repeats her original statement slowly and loudly, as though she suspects Pamela of early-onset Alzheimers, and Pamela starts looking around for this corner where Robin Williams is apparently supposed to be. Finally, Tess is all "HE WAS IN YOUR VT, FOR FUCK'S SAKE" and Pamela finally gets what she's on about. Smooth work there, Tess. Also, hint to the producers: if you're going to refer to things in the VTs, it might be an idea to make sure the contestants are briefed about them beforehand, because they don't actually get to see them as they go out. Pamela says that Robin calls her "matron", but she's hoping that he'll pick a more flattering nickname now he's seen her dressed like that. Scores: Craig 6, Len 7, Alesha 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27 - Pamela's lowest score of the series, but James thinks it's fair, apart from the six.

Tina and Jared are next, and don't even get a proper opening joke, such is the show's apparent lack of interest in them. Poor, doomed Tina. We see Tina emerging from the studio triumphantly last week shoving a bottle of Lucozade Energy right into the camera [the cheque's in the post, Tina - GlaxoSmithKline] and we see them being declared safe. Jared says he doesn't know if he's more excited about dressing up or dancing. "Me too!" Tina squeals. Bless. Tina admits in rehearsals that she's feeling embarrassed, and that going from charleston (and she does jazz hands to illustrate) to "give me sexy Tina" is not a natural transition. Jared tries to get to second base with her, and she's all "when did that get added in?" I take it Jared's parents are not watching this week, because I am sure they would not approve of such wanton behaviour. Tina's just hoping they don't scare the judges.

Their routine is to Ne-Yo's 'Beautiful Monster' and once they start dancing, I realise why Claudia was so terrified of pleather. It is not a good look, you guys. The routine has all the basic steps of an Argentine tango, but there's a hesitancy to it, and watching this, I think I get why they used to save it for much later in the competition, because I just don't think Tina's ready for this dance yet. I'm not even sure Jared's ready for it. It's just a bit too soft and studied and doesn't really have the attack, though I can appreciate she's doing her best on the intensity front. I'm not really sure the music's helping her, either. There's a good end pose, at least, as Tina balances herself on Jared's leg.

Alesha tells her that it's all about being seductive and she acted that well - the Argentine steps were well done, but Tina's still lukewarm and there's more that can come from her. She claims that the lukewarm comment isn't a bad thing, but a) it kind of is and b) she gets booed anyway. Bruno tells Tina he can see her in rubber all the time (ewww), and it was her most focused performance so far, but it needs more drive on the walks and she needs to use her feet on the hooks. To demonstrate, he suddenly whips his arm in behind Alesha's and yanks on it - not the best idea, because she wasn't expecting it and was kind of leaning on the desk, so there's a loud "ooof!" from Alesha and she almost pops a rib. Bruno's then mortified (who knew he was actually capable of that emotion?) and Alesha's a little stunned but laughing, and Bruce wisely moves on to Craig. Craig thought the costuming was bizarre and things got bizarrer still with her back ochos. The connection with her solar plexus was stoppy and starty, and he was a little bit bored. Len thought the lifts were excellent ("they were!" Bruce interjects, and didn't we cover this last week? YOU ARE NOT A JUDGE, BRUCE) and he can see the dancer emerging - he thinks it was her best dance to date.

Jared and Tess head to the Tess Circle, and Tess asks Tina if she enjoyed the serious side. Tina says she was a bit disappointed with the comments, but she hopes the judges can see that she's trying really hard to improve. Tess says she "put the 'Tina' into 'Argentina Tango'." You're fired, Tess. Don't bother to serve out your notice; Myleene Klass is on standby and has been since 2006. Scores: Craig 6, Len 8, Alesha 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 28. Tina's happy with those scores.

Kara and Artem are the next couple to perform. In her VT, Kara says that she thought she actually went a bit over-the-top in her charleston, but was quickly disabused of that notion by Len and Bruno's feedback. She says that she needs to let herself go more than she's ever let herself go in her whole life. Initial rehearsals do not seem to go well - she's trying to bring out the passion and drama of 'The Phantom Of The Opera', which is the song they're performing to, but Artem asks her: "am I hurting you? Because your face is just being miserable." They have a mid-week slump, which is solved by the magical powers of WEST END THEATRE! They go to see the show in the West End, though it would've been funnier if they'd gone to see Paint Never Dries (TM the West End Whingers), and Kara hopes that this will pay off in her performance.

The stage is swamped with dry ice, which makes it rather hard to see the footwork, which is a shame because it looks like it's probably pretty good, since Kara's arm-shaping is excellent and she's doing some good caping with her skirt (they're doing a paso doble, by the way). There's a good precision to her movements which seem very focused, although she's kind of growling at him. Maybe she's still angry about when he called her face "miserable". They've got the drama of the dance down very well, anyway, and Kara continues to move like a natural. I just find her very enjoyable to watch when she dances.

The audience are on their feet, not that that's an unusual sighting these days. Bruno thought it was luscious drama, oozing with passion. Craig loved it, and she finally gave him some passion. Len says that we've seen a bit of a spark in the last few weeks and now there's a fire, and it was her best dance. Alesha? Does not get to talk. How rude.

Up in the Tess Circle, Kara says that they've got lovely marks over the past couple of weeks but the judges didn't love their routines so it's great to get feedback like that. Scores: Craig 9, Len 9, Alesha 10, Bruno 9 for a total of 37. And of course this kicked off the predictable shitstorm of "mumble, grumble, too early for a ten, does Alesha have a '15' paddle under there somewhere, mumble mumble, I miss Arlene, worst judge EVARZ, etc etc." And while I continue to be amused by people who have no professional experience and have never won this show somehow thinking their opinions are still more qualified than Alesha's, I shall instead refer you to some statistics:

Series 1: First 10 in week 5 (Arlene, for Natasha and Brendan's samba)
Series 2: First 10 in week 7 (Arlene, for Jill and Darren's paso doble)
Series 3: First 10 in week 6 (Bruno, for Zoe and Ian's quickstep)
Series 4: First 10 in week 3 (Bruno, for Louisa and Vincent's jive)
Series 5: First 10 in week 4 (Bruno, for Kelly and Brendan's American Smooth) [Although to be fair, with that one, Bruno didn't have a choice BUT to award a 10 because HE COULDN'T HELP HIMSELF - Carrie]
Series 6: First 10 in week 7 (Len, for Austin and Erin's quickstep)
Series 7: First 10 in week 5 (Alesha, for Ricky and Natalie's Viennese waltz)

So, the idea that this is too soon for a ten is pretty daft when only three series out of eight have waited later than this to give out the first tens, and several have handed them out even sooner. So I'll see you all back here for the same argument, same time next year, yes? (And many thanks to Ultimate Strictly for making my research nice and straightforward - it's your one-stop reference shop for all your SCD needs!)

Patsy and Robin are up next. Patsy laughs in her VT that she was just "gasping for air" during her charleston, and she's somehow got to do it all again this week. Robin says that he's working very hard on her stamina this week, so they go running in the park, much to Patsy's horror. Patsy tells the cameras gleefully during rehearsals that she keeps sneaking out on the pretext of using the toilet when instead she's going for a sneaky sit down. Foolishly, she does not sit down actually in the toilets, so Robin catches her. Foiled again!

They're doing a jive to 'The Monster Mash', which involves Patsy vamping behind a set of chemicals and bringing Robin to life as he lies on a slab nearby. Cue the "that's where her next husband's coming from" gags, am I right? There's a spot of hand-jiving and then some laboured kicks and a few timing issues before Patsy finally gets into it and starts doing some actually quite rhythmic and impressive kicks and flicks. Her free arm's still a bit of a problem, mind. She has a similar problem on the slidethrough to Pamela, but recovers, and then there's a bit of choreography where Robin motorboats her. I'm not even kidding. Her footwork gets a bit sloppy again at the end, but she's selling it all rather nicely.

Craig liked the tongue-in-cheek, camp choreography - "I wish it was that easy to make a man who looks like him." Snerk. He thought Patsy's change of hands was very good, and the side by side parts were fantastic, but she got stuck through the legs - overall, though, he thinks she did a fine job. Patsy's all "me? Are you SURE?" Len says it took a while getting started (and dear Lord, the opening skit was positively brief compared to some of the things we'll be facing tonight), but once it got started he enjoyed it very much - the kicks and flicks were sharp, and the routine was well-balanced. Alesha thinks Patsy's hard work has paid off, and she makes it look effortless. She's keeping time with Robin and her musicality is great, and she loves her. Bruno thinks Patsy pitched it absolutely right and was the sharpest she's ever been. Incidentally, so were several people on this week's X Factor. Zing!

They scoot gleefully up to the Tess Circle, and Patsy says that it's been a very hard week, and she thanks all the other contestants for being so supportive (d'awwww). Tess asks her if she feels better, and Patsy says she's got more belief in herself, but doesn't want to get carried away as she can still fall on her face. Scores: Craig 7, Len 8, Alesha 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 31. Let's just take a second to register that Patsy scored higher than Pamela on the jive. I mean, I think she deserved to, but it's still kind of surprising, all the same. Patsy is astounded, and gives Tess a kiss, and thanks Robin for making it possible.

Felicity and Vincent are next to dance, with a Viennese waltz. Felicity interviews that "a very nice time was had by all" last week (hee) but the spins this week are a DISAHHHHHSTER. She crashes into the wall, and Vincent says that he needs her to stay with it and not drop out on him, because "I need her, otherwise I can't get through on Saturday night." Snerk. Vincent brings a spinning expert to help them out - his son, Luca. Awww, it's a mini-Vincent! Vincent and Felicity take him to the park (there is a lot of park action this week in these VTs). "This is where Luca gets trained," Vincent explains. "Because one day he'll be taking over the family business." Felicity goes on the roundabout with Luca, and says that she and "the spin king" still have some work to do: "I'm going to meet him later for a gin and tonic." Hee again. Vincent hopes the judges will fall for Felicity on Saturday, not the other way around.

They're dancing to Shostakovich's 'Waltz No. 2' (thanks, Wikipedia!) and begin on the balcony with a sort of masquerade ball theme, which is marvellous. Then Vincent removes Felicity's mask and they take hold and he spins her around, and now that they've started dancing up there I wonder if they're going to Viennese waltz all the way down the stairs, which would be pretty awesome. Unfortunately, they then walk down the stairs, and rather slowly at that, which just looks like deliberate timewasting to me. They drop their respective cloaks at the foot of the stairs and take hold again for the actual Viennese waltz part of the dance, kind of disappointment after that awesome opening. It's not bad, per se, but it's just not all that exciting, and the insistence on making Felicity do the splits again in the dance is ill-advised on this occasion, as she doesn't really do it all that smoothly. They're clearly a bit out of time at the end, and finish after the band does.

Len says it had a nice feeling of romance and Felicity's posture was much better, but it took a bit of time to get down onto the floor. He thinks Felicity's footwork was "up the swanny" a bit and was all balls and no heels, but he liked the romance and loveliness. Alesha loved the start of the dance, but she thought the walk down the stairs was a waste of time, and they lost both her and the flow of the dance at that point. She thinks it was a bit jerky, and while it had romantic moments and she loved the splits, it didn't really do it for her. Bruno loved the opening, which was all very secret society, but they didn't carry it through, and he calls Felicity on getting her feet muddled and starting to laugh in the middle of the dance. Felicity denies that this happened, but I'm not wholly convinced. Craig said the beginning held great promise, but when they got to the floor it unravelled slightly - he thought the travelling splits were a bit lumpy.

They bounce up to the Tess Circle. Tess enquires about the splits and Felicity says that Vincent will have to do them next week, if they're still here. Tess asks how difficult it is to achieve those spins. Felicity: "Yes." This is really not a good evening for Tess, is it? No one is listening to her. Let's just hope she's not the designated Strictly Come Dancing fire marshal. I can just picture it now.

TESS: Fire! Fire! Everybody out! Please leave the building in an orderly fashion by the nearest emergency exit.
FLAVIA: Oh, I'm fine thanks, I ate earlier.

That's totally how it would go. Scores: Craig 6, Len 7, Alesha 6, Bruno 7 for a total of 26.

The next couple are Jimi and Flavia. Jimi recalls the judges' criticism last week, and admits that it's embarrassing being told off in front of 11 million people. Flavia reveals that Jimi is very excited with this week's paso doble because he'll be paying tribute to one of his greatest heroes: Michael Jackson. Hey, if hero-worship dances are in vogue this season, then I can't wait to see Gavin's Peter Andre-style charleston. Jimi's mum says that he's always been a big Jacko fan and she suspects he'll slip the moonwalk in somewhere. Jimi says that getting to dance to one of his favourite songs by his idol on national TV makes him a winner, whatever happens.

As you've probably guessed, they're doing a paso doble to 'Thriller'. There are a few jerky moments to it, but on the whole it's a smoother and better dance from him, and he's maintaining his sort of Frankenstein's-monster-slash-zombie character nicely. They dance around a cape that's waiting for them in the middle of the floor, which Flavia eventually grabs and there's quite a cool bit where Jimi wraps the cape around her and then whirls the cape around, carrying Flavia with it. His Flavia-less caping subsequently is a bit lacklustre, but there's still a good level of physicality to the dance. Also, his feline contact lenses are creeping me THE FUCK OUT. There are lots of weird contact lenses tonight, and they always give me the heebie-jeebies.

Alesha thinks Jimi's eyes are amazing, and he acted it with drama and passion all the way through. She thinks it's very hard for the male celebrities to get the shaping right in this dance, but he gave it a really good go. Bruno thinks Jimi obviously loved his character, and he dances better as the living dead - "stay in character, love!" Heh. Craig thought it was full of great storytelling, intent and purpose, and he loved the shapes Jimi was making. Len thinks there was lovely shaping and he liked the lift using the cape, but after that he just wafted it, which - wait for it - got on his wick. Sigh. Bruce tells us again how scary Jimi is tonight, but the effect is ruined by the fact that Jimi's already skipping off to the Tess Circle and waving joyously to the audience.

Jimi gives the obligatory "cha'mone!" to Tess and says he hopes Michael was looking down. This isn't The X Factor, Jimi. Scores: Craig 7, Len 7, Alesha 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 30. Jimi's thrilled, and lifts Flavia up in celebration. In the background while Tess is reading out the voting numbers, Katya turns her back to us and starts doing a little dance. I have no idea why.

Midpoint leaderboard: Kara and Artem are at the top with 37, then Patsy and Robin are second (!) with 31. Jimi and Flavia are third with 30, Tina and Jared in fourth with 28, Pamela and James behind them with 27, and Felicity and Vincent at the bottom with 26.

The next couple is Michelle and Brendan, and Brendan's suddenly donned a Riff Raff-style bald cap/wig thing, so combined with Michelle's sparkly top hat, every single Rocky Horror fan in the audience probably squeed quite loudly at this point. I know I did. In her VT, Michelle talks about how excited she is to have Brendan back, though Ian took great care of her on Saturday. Brendan notes that a bad week to have an ankle injury is jive week, and we see them take a tumble in rehearsal. Michelle goes to the doctor and ends up on crutches. She's signed off rehearsals and loses two days' training, but Brendan insists they're making up for lost time. Michelle explains that she's feeling much better now, and proceeds to have a "conversation" with her own ankle about how it's feeling better. Somehow I'm thinking that's not the first time Michelle and Michelle's Ankle have conversed. Brendan thinks Michelle jives really well, and Michelle says she's not going to let the setback hold her down.

They're dancing to 'The Time Warp' (yay!) and...wonders never cease, it's not too shabby, actually. Michelle shows great energy and bounce at the beginning, and her kicks are pretty good (presumably all that practice of kicking Beyoncé out of the way to get her three seconds of screentime per video prepared her for this dance), and she's moving more smoothly as well. As the dance goes on, she does become a little bit lumpy and heavy-footed, but she's still performing it well. Unfortunately she and Brendan are completely out out of sync in the "step to the right" section of the routine, and once they've got to that point, the actual jive portion of the dance starts to crumble a little bit. It's at this point I realise that the whole show makes much more sense tonight if you just pretend it's a Christmas special, and everyone's drunk like they usually are. But still: jive-lite it may have been, but I genuinely think that was a good performance from Michelle, and I really think she's improving. Whether it's enough to keep her around, I don't know, but if this is the week that she goes, she'll be going out on a high. Other than the one she's normally on, I mean.

Bruce welcomes Brendan back, and Michelle tells Brendan he looks more handsome than ever. Hee. Bruno wants to know what they were on - "it was delightfully demented." He loved it, apparently for all the wrong reasons. Craig says it was "lobotomised" - again in a good way, bizarrely enough. He thinks people will either love or hate that routine, but because he's "from a theatrical background" (/is a homosexual), he loved it. Len's from a ballroom background (/is a miserable old sod) and hated it - he liked the first half because it was a proper jive, but then they got caught up in the story of 'The Time Warp' (they had sex with an alien transvestite and then performed in a floor show?) and the last "three-quarters" of it was all 'The Time Warp'. That's bollocks - the last quarter, perhaps, but not the last three-quarters. Brendan protests that it was just 20 seconds, and he timed it, and he's not having that. Len says he can only tell them what he thought, and Brendan snaps that Len "needs to go to Specsavers and mmmphfffmppmfpph", because Michelle may be one diva short of a girl group most of the time, but she's still got enough sense to know that you should probably shut Brendan up when he starts talking like that. Len retorts that what Brendan needs to do is "turn up, keep up, and shut up."

Let's consider that for a moment, shall we? First of all, it's not the first time Len's trotted that one out - I'm fairly certain he said something very similar to Maks on Dancing With The Stars earlier this year. Get some new material, Len. And also, I gave Len a pass last week for the dig at Brendan where he claimed that Brendan would never admit responsibility for a slip-up, even though he definitely has done in the past, because it was relatively light-hearted and a throwaway gag and because I suspected that Brendan himself would've seen the funny side, with his whole "bad boy of ballroom" thing. This, however, I think was crossing a line, because you really can't separate it from the context of last week, where Brendan did not turn up because he was at his father's funeral, and Len should've known better than to say something like that.

Anyway, Brendan spits that Len should just not turn up at all, and Michelle screams "ORDER!" and flings her hands across him. I love her crazy ass. Alesha tells Michelle that it was entertaining and it was how she imagined Tina Turner might do the jive. "I thought the basic steps were good, you're both barking mad, well done." Hee. I actually think Alesha's been on good form tonight - she's given useful feedback, she's actually analysed the dances well and picked up on a lot of good points, and even in cases like this where she hasn't said much directly about the actual dance, she's at least managed to realise that this is a gimmick evening and the usual rules don't apply, which is more than Len's done. So considering that Bruno is even more drunk than usual and Len's being a dick, she's not that far off being the most useful and helpful judge of the evening. I mean, it's a sliding scale, but she really is doing some good work tonight, not that I imagine anyone will bother to give her credit for it.

Michelle runs up to the Tess Circle, and Brendan's checking his wig hair's in place. Hee. Brendan tells Tess that he made sure that there was enough content in there, and there weren't any lifts. Oh, Brendan. The one year you start caring about when you should and should not do a lift is apparently the same year the producers just went *shrug* and threw the rulebook out the window. Michelle says she had a great time. Tess is impressed that they pulled that off with two-and-a-half days' training, and Michelle says that she's a survivor. Brendan thanks the team who put everything together tonight. Scores are in: Craig 7, Len 6, Alesha 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 29. It's their best score to date, and quite likely to put them in the top half of the leaderboard. Truly, tonight is a very strange night.

Time for Gavin and Katya. Gavin turns up to rehearsals in his rugby shorts and Katya's all "we've got to get you some dance gear". Heh. I'll let Gavin take over the narration for this bit: "I'm supposed to be playing, like, a devil so I'm trying to be sort of angry with Katya. She wants me to get into character, and she's taken it personal now. I can't win." He says this all with a comedy eyeroll, and honestly, I love him. Who knew Gavin Henson was funny? Gavin's the official recipient of this year's Acting Coach Journey, and they bring in actor Charles Collingwood to teach him a few tricks. And if you don't know who Charles Collingwood is - shame on you! - he's Brian Aldridge in The Archers, so let's just say I got very excited at this point because the daily Archers podcast is how I spend my bus journey to work. Also, it's nice to know that "Brian" looks exactly how I picture him. Brian Aldridge tries the James Jordan technique of getting Gavin riled by calling him a "Welsh twerp" before popping home to make sure that Jenny Darling has made up the menus for this season's shoots and to visit poor Ruairi in the cellar. Gavin says that he's "thinking of bad thoughts - I'm in a dark place this week" and he'll do whatever it takes.

Katya is virginal in white, and they're dancing to 'Uprising' by Muse, who are coining it in nicely this week. Gavin takes off his cape and is SHIRTLESS and there is some caping, and also his hair has been sprayed red and gelled into two devil-horns at the front. It's hard to know what to say about this really - the choreography doesn't require an awful lot of dancing from Gavin, but he does make some fairly good attempts at the hand-shaping. I'm not really buying the look of fierceness he's meant to be projecting, as he's still the same old Gavin, but he's clearly trying, so points for effort. Then he pulls off Katya's dress in a Bucks Fizz moment to reveal a much shorter red dress underneath, and then he stands there for a bit while she dances around him, Ola Jordan-style, and then she lies on the ground and he leaps over her. Katya is very trusting, I'll give her that.

Bruce hands Gavin a Welsh flag to cover himself up, and Katya mistakenly thinks he's talking to her so wraps it around her waist, and Bruce is all "not you!" because this show is kind of sexist. Craig thinks the hands need finessing and he still has musicality problems, so the whole thing was a load of posturing, but he finally saw a hint of personality. Len thinks Gavin is working his assets and has put a lot of work in, and is getting the hang of pointing his foot - he thinks it's on the way. Alesha thinks it's sexy and a very nice attempt - she thinks the shaping looked wonderful, and she knows Gavin can give more. Bruno, clearly mesmerised by the abs, says "Body -- I mean, Gavin." Snerk. He thinks he can reveal more of himself (dirty!), because he's getting beautiful lines and posture, but he needs to believe in himself and work on musicality.

Up in the Tess Circle, Tess flies in the face of all of her natural instincts by getting Gavin to cover up, and asks how he's going to fit in all that new rugby training with his dancing. Katya, under her breath: "Dancing comes first." I love Katya. Gavin says he's really enjoyed that dance all week and it was the best one so far. Scores: Craig 5, Len 7, Alesha 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 26. Tess tells us that our votes could determine "who stays, and who goes bump in the night." Seriously, someone should have danced to this:


Right, where were we? Scott and Natalie are next, and Scott thinks Saturday night went really well. Unfortunately, he got sick straight afterwards - which seems to mainly consist of sniffling, it has to be said. "I have a lot of mucus," Scott admits, warning the front row to watch out. "It's going to be a Halloween slimefest." Natalie vows that sickness will not stop them from succeeding.

There is a giant fucking cauldron in the middle of the dancefloor which Nataie is wafting her arms over before dancing over to Scott, who appears to be posing as Rodin's The Thinker (or Bruce Forsyth, it's hard to tell) and "casting a spell" on him to bring him to life (complete with sound effects) as - wait for it - 'I Put A Spell On You' comes up on the soundtrack. They're doing a Viennese waltz, and it's beautiful - romantic, lyrical, and one of the few dances this evening that manages to transcend the silly Halloween gimmicks and succeed at being genuinely amazing in its own right. Say what you like about Natalie, but the woman knows her way around a Viennese waltz.

Len thinks it was "spellbinding". Alesha thinks they just hypnotised the whole room. Bruno thinks they created dance magic. Craig is not asked for his opinion. Blimey, that was brisk, wasn't it?

Up in the Tess Circle, Scott says he just wants to do whatever Natalie asks of him every week and keep learning. Scores are in: Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Still too early for tens, is it? Natalie falls over with shock. Scott thanks everyone for creating a positive environment. Tess cracks that he's "bravely beaten man-flu." Oh, all right: heh. You can have your job back, Daly. FOR NOW.

Ann and Anton are next. Ann says that she would've thought pigs were more likely to fly than she was, prior to last week. She alludes to the "Widdymania" that's sweeping the nation, with even the prime minister (spit, spit) talking about her acrobatic display. Ann says she's lived to dance the paso doble, and now it's actually happening. Anton thinks there's new gusto in the room and Ann's doing really well. They go to a dance school where Ann claims to have taken the children through the steps of the paso doble. I suspect the kids were like, "bitch please, we were doing the paso doble in the womb. How about we show YOU how to do it?" Ann's looking forward to performing the routine.

They're dancing to 'Wild Thing' and aside from a bit of caping at the beginning, it's a fairly basic paso. It's all a bit subdued - as I said on Twitter at the time, it's not so much a bullfight as it is a polite exchange of views with a fieldmouse. She's keeping time well - I guess that's a compliment? The shaping isn't terrible. There are even some lifts, if you can believe that. But I am kind of running out of things to say about Widdy at this point. All my aghastness has been consumed.

Bruce asks her if she was the cape or the bull, and Ann confirms that she was the cape. We go to Alesha first, who thinks it was "a humble entrance" this week, and she says that the only criticism she has at the moment -- "only one?" asks Ann -- is that she needs to stop counting out loud and do that in her head. "It's the only way I'll get it right, dear," says Ann, amid the laughter. Alesha continues that there wasn't much conviction and Anton was dragging her around like "an appliance - it was like she was a Hoover or something!" But she concludes it was very entertaining. Bruce complains that Alesha stole his joke, as he said that in rehearsals. Bruno thinks he won't recover from that ending, and he thinks Anton looked like a tugboat trying to free HMS Astute from the sands of the Clyde. Too soon? There are some boos, anyway. Bruno thinks it was heavy. "Did you say I was heavy?" Ann asks. Bruno insists he would never say that. Craig says he only has three letters: "O-M-G." Len likens it to a car crash - he didn't want to watch, but he couldn't help himself.

They march gamely up the stairs to the Tess Circle, and Tess admires the lifts. "The judges were a bit of a drag, weren't they?" Ann reads from some cue cards next to the camera. She points out that that was the first dance where she's got every step right, "and the miseries didn't even mention it." Heh. "It's because I was counting them - that's why I got them right." Heh again. Scores: Craig 2, Len 5, Alesha 5, Bruno 4 for a total of 16. Ann thanks the public for letting them get this far in the first place.

Our last dance of the evening is My Chemical Matt Baker and Aliona Vilani. Okay, hugely shameful confession out of the way: I've never understood the people who find Matt Baker attractive, but tonight, I probably would. NOW LET US NEVER SPEAK OF THIS AGAIN. [Oh Steven. - Carrie] Matt says that he was focusing on getting the lift right in last week's charleston. He was surprised by the reaction to Bruno's 8 in the studio, and he decides to let the audience's reaction speak for him. Very wise, I feel, because it's about the only way I'm not going to call him a smug git. [They're SUCH wankers about the 8, really. Neither of them do themselves any favours. - Carrie] They go to a photoshoot in lots of hay where he has to be Mr Darcy. He breaks the prop fork, and there is much amusement. Matt says he's been working very hard to lead the dance, and he hopes there will be sparks.

They're dancing the Argentine Tango to 'Bat Out Of Hell' and as we've come to expect, he's pretty deft and very sharp with his movements, though there's definitely some hesitancy and he kind of fluffs one of the lifts. He's doing well to keep up with the dance, but there's a bit of a spark missing, and it's not really his best work. I think they probably shouldn't wheel out the Argentine Tango so early - it's a difficult dance, and the fact that even an accomplished dancer like Matt's struggling with it a little bit just goes to show how Tina had absolutely no chance.

Bruno thinks it's "Matt Out Of Hell with super power and super dancing", and the lifts were incredible. Craig thinks it was a bit shaky at times and he messed up the gancho section near the judges, but he's still a dynamic dancer. Len thinks not all of the lifts were in keeping with the dance, and just picking Aliona up is inconsequential. Alesha could feel Matt's nerves, but she thought it was hot, sexy and passionate.

Tess says that there were no tricks and no props this week, and Matt admits he felt a bit exposed as a result. He adds that it's been a hard week lifting Aliona all over the place. Scores: Craig 8, Len 8, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 34.

That's it, then. Final leaderboard: Scott and Natalie at the top, then Kara and Artem, then Matt and Aliona, then Patsy and Robin, then Jimi and Flavia, then Michelle and Brendan, then Tina and Jared, then Pamela and James, then a tie between Felicity and Vincent and Gavin and Katya, and Ann and Anton at the bottom. Tess declares the phonelines open, and says "who you gonna call?" to a half-hearted response of "Ghostbusters!" Oh Tess. They haven't listened to you all evening; call-and-response was a bad idea.

Recap: Pamela's jive from hell, Tina's stuttery Argentine Tango, Kara's awesome paso doble, Patsy's camp-as-tits jive complete with motorboating action, Felicity's dizzy Viennese waltz, Jimi's thriller of a paso, Michelle's insane almost-jive, Gavin's shirtless paso, Scott's spellbinding Viennese waltz, Ann and Anton's paso that was a load of bull, and My Chemical Matt Baker's somewhat nervous Argentine Tango. Someone's going home tomorrow - but who will it be?

Results: 31st October 2010

Last night! Everything got a bit scary, even before you factored in Bruce's attempts at ad libbing. Tonight, someone else gets the chop. This is Strictly Come Dancing - the results!

We start with a pro number to Ray Parker Jr's 'Ghostbusters', which features spooky skeletons sitting behind the judges desk, and then Erin comes in in a red dress and flees from the rest of the pros, who are playing the ghosts that she's 'fraid of. Then Anton arrives as a Ghostbuster, who ain't 'fraid of no ghosts (SUMMON THE GRAMMAR POLICE), complete with jumpsuit, and they tango around the floor. Also, the sight of Jared trying to look like a ravenous creature of the undead is adorable. He can't do scary at all, bless him. He's far too High School Musical for all that. Then at the end Anton and Erin return with zappers and destroy the ghosts. Hooray!

Tess is back with a sparkly glitter creature sitting on her shoulder, and welcomes the judges back to the fold, especially Craig who she says made an effort with his Halloween mask. Craig sniffs that he paid a lot of money to look like this. I can believe it. Claudia's up in the Tess Circle and teases the arrival of Alice Cooper (ALICE COOPER!) later, before we transition into last night's recap.

We opened with Pamela's jive, which was a little bit lacklustre, according to Len. Alesha thinks she'll be able to brush it off and move on though. We see Craig claiming that Tina's routine was boring, and Tina (Lucozade in hand) says that she'd be bored if she had to talk to Craig. Ooh, burn! Kara is thrilled to get the first ten of the series, and Bruno thought her movement was beautiful. Alesha thinks Patsy is a better dancer than she realises. Len thinks they all know she's good, but convincing Patsy is going to be the problem. Len whines about the MESSING ABAHT in Felicity's routine. Alesha feels bad saying it, but she gets bored watching Felicity. Bruno thinks Jimi made a fantastic dancing zombie. Len likes that he comes out and HAS A GO. Bruno thinks Michelle really went for it in her jive. Brendan's proud of Michelle. Len likes Brendan, and wishes more of the pros would have a go back at the judges when they're criticised. Really? Could've fooled me. Craig thinks the routine was not up to scratch for Gavin. Alesha thinks Craig was looking at his chest and not his face. Everyone agrees Scott was amazing. Scott and Natalie celebrate their scores. Len thinks everyone will be gunning for him now. Len loves the anticipation of Ann. Ann says she'd like to let a real bull loose in a room with the judges. Alesha thinks Matt saw the 10s flying around and got nervous. Bruno thinks it was good, but it could've been brilliant. Len lies that he enjoyed the whole evening.

Time for our first batch of results with Tess. In no particular result, the following couples are safe: Michelle and Brendan (they go nuts, predictably), Scott and Natalie, Ann and Anton, Kara and Artem, and Matt and Aliona. The first couple confirmed to be in the bottom two is Tina and Jared. Tina hides her face in her hands, but the looks on their faces suggest this was possibly not unexpected. Tess asks Alesha for her thoughts, and Alesha says that the middle of the table is always a risky place to be, but she'd hate to lose Tina because she's still got a lot to give and room to grow. Tess asks Bruno who embraced the theme the best, and Bruno can't single out anyone, but he thinks hair, make-up and costume did a fabulous job. [I LOVED this. Well done, Bruno. You wheeled out the scripted answer almost convincingly! - Carrie]

Claudia's up in the Tess Circle with the safe couples, and asks Michelle how she feels. Michelle thanks the public for voting, and says that she'd made plans to go home this week. "WHAT?" splutters Brendan. Heh. Claudia turns to Scott and asks if he was livid with the nine (yeah, Matt). Scott says that wasn't the case at all, and says that they're all working hard, and congratulates all the pros for teaching them all so well.

Then we segue to...oh my God, it's the dance troupe! Appropriately enough, they're back from the dead for Halloween! They're doing a showcase Viennese waltz with a masquerade ball theme to 'Never Tear Us Apart'. It's rather nice, actually - I'm still not entirely sure if it was worth setting up a dance troupe considering how little they've actually been used, but I gather they're going to be around quite a bit over the next few weeks, so maybe we'll all be able to make sense of it yet.

Afterwards, Claudia's still up in the Tess Circle and speaking to Kara about scoring a 10. Kara says she was blown away - and then Scott got three. Poor Kara: always the bridesmaid. [But she is going to MARRY ARTEM! So she wins! - Carrie] Claudia turns to Matt and asks who's the most competitive person in the competition and he says that having two dances that scored tens just makes you more determined to come back and perform even better.

After that, we're back to Tess for some more results. The following couples are safe: Patsy and Robin (Patsy has a seizure, as is expected), Jimi and Flavia, and Gavin and Katya. So one of Felicity and Vincent and Pamela and James is in the bottom two. The couple in the bottom two is Felicity and Vincent, so Pamela and James are safe and through to next week.

Tess turns to Craig and asks what Felicity and Vincent need to work on if they get through. Craig says Felicity has no problems with storytelling but needs to work on her technique, and he finds it hard to see her in the bottom two with "the uncultivated Ann" still in the programme. Tess turns to Len and asks what the public are seeing in Ann and Anton that the judges are not. Len says that it's good that the viewers are saving them because that's how this show works, but that judges have to judge the dancing. [Remember, readers, this is the man who gave Ann a SEVEN last week for entertainment value. LEN, YOU ARE AN IDIOT. - Carrie]

Claudia's up in the Tess Circle with the bottom two. She asks Tina if she's surprised to be there, and Tina says that perhaps the public didn't see what they wanted to see. She's had the best experience of her life and doesn't want to leave, but what will be will be. Felicity says every week is different and she's not sure she'd do anything differently, and she couldn't be happier than she is at this moment. Unless perhaps she was not in the bottom two, I'd imagine.

Before we can learn who's going home, it's time for a very special performance from Alice Cooper, with 'Poison'. Yay! This is one of my all-time favourite karaoke songs, and maybe also one of the best songs ever. Admittedly, he's sounding a bit frail these days, but it's still ALICE FUCKING COOPER and therefore your argument is invalid. The Jordans and Kristina (looking surprisingly like Natalie for most of the routine, but I went back and checked and it's definitely Kristina) [Confirmed by Ola on Twitter! - Carrie] and Robin come out and dance during the second voice, but they are not ALICE COOPER and so I am not really paying attention.

Pre-exit VT. Tina reminds us that she watched from home when she had chicken pox [wait. Tina had chickenpox? When? - Carrie] and that was heartbreaking, so she doesn't want it to end. Felicity doesn't want to go because her granddaughters and grandsons love seeing her on the show and she doesn't want to disappoint them. Oh God, this is horrible. I don't want either of them to go yet, not really.

It's time for an entirely too-cheerful-sounding Tess to declare that the couple leaving the show tonight is Tina and Jared. They hug, cutely. Tess asks Tina what she's going to miss most, and Tina says everything, because she's had the best time. She apologises to Jared, because she wanted to do more and stick around, and she's clearly struggling not to cry. [He should apologise to her. His choreography hasn't been up to much. But then, he's about 12, so he has time to mature. - Carrie] Tina says she wants to continue with the dancing, and Tess sends them off to the centre of the room to prepare for their final dance.

That's it for this week, then - next week things will be back to normal (or what passes for normal on this show), and Tina and Jared dance to 'I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself' and fucking hell, that is a CRUEL music choice. Poor Tina. I liked her, and I will miss her. The others all come down to surround them and smother them with hugs, and then Jared is weeping a little bit, and I AM NOT CRYING I JUST HAVE SOMETHING IN MY EYE OKAY. See you next week!


my said...

Glad it wasn't just me with the guyliner thing! The effect it has is just wrong. Especially with Matt Baker. I am not meant to fancy Blue Peter presenters. Hopefully normal service will be resumed next week.

What with that and Robin's nipples in that shirt, and Brendan and Robin's bromance I found the whole show slightly distracting for entirely different reasons to normal. I loved it!

Merseytart said...

Matt Baker is rancid, but yes, the guyliner made a hell of a difference. Until he stood next to Scott Maslen.

Victoria Snelling said...

Who even notices Matt Baker???

Alice Cooper on Strictly - this is how it should always be!

kuyr53e said...

IS VERY GOOD..............................