Saturday, 18 December 2010

A fine showmance

Tx Saturday 18th December 2010

So! Previously on Strictly! People danced! Previously today I set out for London and travelled three miles in three hours and have had all my festive plans for the night cancelled and had to go back to the bloody provinces where my parents live and I'm really pissed off, so I'm in no mood for the kind of shit Strictly can churn out when it's not on form - so this had BETTER BE GOOD.

We begin with a pathetic scripted piece performed by BBC News staff about a "virus" striking all of the UK as from three months ago, the only cure being, of course, to sit on your sofa and watch Strictly every Saturday (and vote, obviously). Tess breaks in to tell us that Pamela, Matt and Kara are dancing tonight for the chance to win the glitterball trophy, and the engraver is standing by. Oh, but we mustn't forget that this series has really been all about Ann sodding Widdecombe. For. Fuck's. Sake. She's GONE, must we continue with the charade that she was in any way entertaining?


We open with a pro dance to Eye of the Tiger. Brendan is loving exeerting his alpha maleness amidst a throng of Robin, Vincent, Anton and Jared. Their lady partners are in black underwear and a face cloth. Then the finalists come out in boxer-esque dressing gowns. And then we hear the announcement, "Let's get ready to rumba!" Was that all just an elaborate set-up for that gag? [Considering Kara was the only contestant planning a rumba for this evening, it seems even more bizarre. - Steve]

Right, Bruce and Tess are here. Let's get on. She's looking very nice in a white dress and a silver strap. Well done, Tess! Time enough for a quick gag at Paul Daniels' and Ann Widdecombe's expense? Oh, I think so. Bruce then utterly cocks up his tenses, which makes it sound as if the results have already been decided. Tess takes us through the rules as always, because we are utter idiots who can't remember what the point of this show is from one week to the next. Oh, no, that's Len.

Matt and Aliona are first to dance tonight. Their Strictly Story is prefaced by a quick weather report from Bruce, seriously. Matt tells us that it's been emotional, and whines a bit more about the judges "hurting" him. Oh, shut up, Baker. I'd hurt you a lot more given the opportunity. He initially thought that Strictly would be light and fluffy, but he soon learnt, and very much enjoyed incorporating (pointless) props into his routines. He thinks he and Aliona think similarly, and then Aliona sniffs, "I'm sure the other contestants will say they have been on a journey, but I really have been." To be fair, she has been on a literal journey, following Baker around the country like a puppydog as he tries to do two jobs at once. Quick mention of their QUEST FOR TENS, satisfied in BLACKPOOL, as if we could forget. Yawn.

Right, it's their BLACKPOOL samba to Young Hearts Run Free, with its grotesque amounts of grinding and a nonsensical amount of gymnastics. The audience go mental, and Bruce exclaims at how exciting it is to see the amount of appreciation, as if they're not told to cheer like sheep. He then introduces the judges with some really inept jokes, as if you couldn't have guessed that; Alesha is wearing a claret-red satin dress with a crazily large ruffle on the shoulder. Len has the flu, apparently. Alesha thinks it was the best samba of the series. Bruno thinks it was even better than it was in BLACKPOOL. Craig says it was all good, including the "torrid" hip action.

Tess welcomes them up in the Tess Circle, where the losers are all hanging round. Matt says he wanted that routine to be a celebration. Perhaps you should have danced to Celebration then? Scores - Craig 9, Len 9, Alesha 10 and Bruno 10 for a total of 38. Tess says we should vote for Matt if we want his new nickname to be Glitterballs. Why on earth would we want that?

Kara and Artem next. Bruce utterly fucks up the delivery to his creepy gag about how gorgeous Kara is. Now their Strictly Story! Kara says reaching the final of Strictly Come Dancing is one of the biggest achievements of her life. There then follows a moment of epic brilliance from the fx team as Kara confesses she originally wanted to dance with James (sound effect: a whip cracking) or Anton (sound effect: a comedy car horn). She says it took her a few weeks to get going properly, and says the Phantom routine was the first time she did well. She reminisces about the wonder of BLACKPOOL. She then reels off her scripted lines about how much she loves Artem. Except she can't get through them without laughing and sobbing all at once. What a strange little girl. [I'm understanding where the phrase "tired and emotional" came from more and more with each series. - Steve] Artem says their partnership has been special because they are IN LOVE AND GETTING MARRIED BECAUSE TESS SAID SO. Kara likens Strictly to "a life camp" and says it has been one of the most amazing experiences of her life.

They're doing their rumba, which is incredible, and not just because Artem has his chest out. They're dancing amidst much less dry ice this time as well, but with the same amount of chemistry as previously. Gorgeous stuff. After thanking the singers, Dave Arch, and who could forget his wonderful orchestra, Bruce throws to Alesha, who is crying. For goodness sake. MAN UP, DIXON. Bruno says it was a glorious rumba of hypnotic beauty. Craig says Bruno is absolutely right. Everyone whoops. This is because Craig is the only judge worth listening to. He then points out an illegal lift and everyone boos. Bruce says, "We can tell you've never had an illegal lift." [Good job it wasn't Bruno he had to say that to, because Bruno seems to get an illegal lift right before the show every week. - Steve] Len says that routine reminds him of himself - irritating, inconsistent and tiresome? No, "the more you see it, the better it gets". Tess rubbishes the idea of there being an illegal lift, and then everyone boos Craig for being the only judge never to award her a 10. "I'm not going to ASK him for it," declares Kara. Quite right too. If you ten-grubbed, that'd make you as bad as Matt. Scores - Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10 and Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Artem cries.

Bruce introduces Pamela and James by likening himself to Pamela through their shared sexiness and sensuality. Their Strictly Story - Pamela mocking James for crying, her husband who is BILLY CONNOLLY poking his nose in, her saying it was weird to get back in the limelight despite trading on her former celebrity to flog her psychological "insights". James says he didn't think they'd get any further than halfway; Pamela says that it's been the most fun experience of her entire life. That doesn't speak well for her life with her HUSBAND then, does it? James wells up a bit when he says that Pamela has made him proud of her. Pamela says that people of her age (NB: 61) sometimes feel invisible [perhaps because people only think of them in terms of the people TO WHOM THEY ARE MARRIED? - Steve], and she hopes she can maintain this positive feeling.

They're reprising their dance to Unchained Melody. Let's hope the singers can make a better fist of the upper register bits this time, eh? The routine is as elegant and old-style Hollywood as previously. Backstage, Katya looks like she's crying. Why is everyone so WEEPY on this show? Bruno says it was beautiful and focused - "simply brilliant. Craig says it was simple and effective and likes that they play by the rules. Len interjects that the correct three have got into the final. Oh, shut up, Len, it's got fuck-all to do with you anyway. Lest we forget, you gave a 7 to Ann and Anton, thus your opinion is entirely invalid forever. Pamela tells Tess that routine is BILLY CONNOLLY's favourite. James tells us that this is his first final in five years, and he would like a glitterball to have as a bookend to Ola's. Scores - Craig 10, Len 10, Alesha 10 and Bruno 10 for a perfect score. If the scores meant anything tonight, I might attempt to deconstruct that, but I really can't be arsed. Tess then reads out the voting numbers, naming only the celebrities, not their partners. How rude.

Bruce introduces the showdance by talking utter gibberish, just to make a change. Matt and Aliona will go first. She says the showdance is the most important one of the night, which is obviously why they're dancing it second of four. Matt reminds us how much strength and energy it takes. And they dance theirs to I Like The Way You Move, complete with two golden haybales. I say "dance", this is a string of acrobatics and feats of strength. Aliona is RUBBISH. This is alongside Erin's dreadful idea of the bloody blow-up dolls in terms of showdance fails. [Don't forget this one. - Steve] Len says with a showdance you want a routine that makes you feel good and that inspires you. "A few too many stunts and tricks for me," he says, which is entirely true. Alesha liked the tricks and street-dancing and notes that it was nice to see him showing off his gymnastic ability, and Bruno says he had no idea that Matt had so many tricks up his sleeve with the gymnastics...and I suspect Alesha and Bruno have agreed to take the piss out of this pair, haven't they? Craig thought it was too static and it didn't flow or link together. "The whole idea and concept didn't completely come together," he concludes. Matt says they wanted to lay all their cards on the table, which seem to be entirely gymnastic-performing cards on that evidence, but he reminds us that he competed when he was a teenager, not a big grown-up man. Scores - Craig 7, Len 9, Alesha 9 and Bruno 9 for a total of 34. Aliona glares at Craig and says, "We're used to it." Matt enlightens us that he would love to win. O rly?

Kara and Artem next. Bruce says, "I wonder what special tricks they've got lined up?" Having sex live on television if Tess had her way, I'll be bound. Kara VTs about how much rests on the single performance - "either everyone will love it, or we'll end up in a heap and they'll be calling an ambulance." Oh Kara, talk about tempting fate. They're doing a jive-flavoured routine to Don't Stop Me Now, complete with Freddie Mercury outfits. It's an amazing piece of work, complete with air guitar, and Kara does some gymnastic feats of her own. Somewhere along the way she hurts her arm, because by the end she can't hold on to him properly. Craig notes a ruined lift; Len thinks it was too fast; Alesha loved it; and Bruno too was disappointed with the "incidents". As they run up to the Tess Circle, Kara's right arm is hanging fairly uselessly at her side. Tess asks her about the rumour that Artem let her choreograph some of the routine. "Yes, two seconds!" she exclaims. "It was more than that," says an embarrassed Artem. "OK, three," she concludes. Scores - straight nines. 36 out of 40. Tess asks Kara what she'll do with her weekends now. Brendan makes suggestive comments, as if we would expect anything else from him.

Pamela and James to finish. He says he will push her RIGHT TO THE EDGE, even though she is older (please note, she is 61) than Kara and Matt put together. They're dancing to (I've Had) The Time Of My Life. Somewhere backstage, Brendan is being held back as he shouts, "I'VE GOT COPYRIGHT ON ALL DIRTY DANCING ROUTINES EVER, JORDAN!" It's a nice routine, though with an excruciating ending which doesn't even fit with the routine where Pamela flies through James's legs and we get a crotch shot. Not needed. Alesha thinks it was a brilliant song choice and the routine was perfectly played with a lot of dance content. Bruno enthuses about how great Dirty Dancing is. Craig points out a stumble and James apologises because it was his fault - "I DID notice," retorts Craig. Len likes that they put in elements of different dances they've performed over the course of the series. "A medley of lovely things!" screeches Bruce. Up in the Tess Circle, James apologises to Pamela. Get that clipped, BBC - this may be the first recorded incident of James Jordan apologising to anyone. Tess tells Pamela she is an inspiration to women, and neatly Pamela thanks all the women AND MEN who have voted for her. James says, "Nobody puts Granny in a corner." Lolarity ensues. Scores - all 9s apart from a 10 from Bruno.

Right, that's the first section of the show over with. The utterly superfluous leaderboard has Pamela and James at the top, Matt and Aliona at the bottom. What will happen? Wait an hour and you'll find out...

Results show

Tess does a dramatic voiceover telling us there have been hundreds of dances and thousands of hours of training and millions of votes cast, and so on. The mini-titles kick in and Bruce welcomes us back. The lemmings in the audience scream as Tess reads out the contestants' names and announces that the lines have now been FROZEN, much like the UK's ROAD SYSTEM. Bruce tells us that we should prepare for the loser procession. Hooray!

Montage! Artem and his bosom are proud of Kara. Matt warmed up backstage for his acrobatic routine masquerading as a showdance. Kara says she hasn't done a backflip since she was 11, which is probably why she hurt her arm, and then she cried. Matt says winning would be magnificent. Kara tries to do a plea for votes but she's got a lump in her throat. Pamela leaps up and down with glee at the prospect of the Argentine tango.

Back to the studio, where one couple will LEAVE. Who will it be? Why, it's Pamela and James with the fewest number of votes. Billy Connolly, who is PAMELA'S HUSBAND, looks sad and applauds. Bruce patronises Pamela a bit and then she does her thank-you spiel, telling James he has made it the most joyful experience she has had in a long time, and thanks him for his patience. Is that the same James Jordan? Quick compilation of Pamela's highlights - Alesha saying she was born to dance, lots of Pamela's clothes being romved, James shouting at Pamela and her laughing at him, talking about BILLY CONNOLLY.

So now Matt and Aliona must take on Kara and Artem. All votes have been carried over, and the lines are now OPEN again as the couples prepare to dance once more.

Matt and Aliona are dancing a paso. Matt talks about it being the last week of dancing and wanting it to be a celebration "of what we've done" - so, gymnastics, mostly? He will miss Aliona's drive and methods and shouting - but not her choreography, unsurprisingly. Aliona likes that Matt has enjoyed the intesity of their training.

Matt has his acting face on and some decent shaping in his arms before his hands transmogrify into squashed spiders. He lets a smile cross his face every so often, and the end goes a bit disco. Not enough attack for my liking, but admittedly I'm biased because I loathe them. Len notes that Matt lacked "that haughty matador look" and concludes it was OK but not fantastic. Alesha says that the paso is made for him - "you come alive in the tangos and the pasos", despite him having not done a paso before. Bruno agrees with Len and then shouts over the idiot audience. Craig "rather liked it" and Alesha collapses with laughter. Tess asks: "Fair comments?" and Matt says, "Yeah, well, whatever." Oh Matt, you are NOT WINNING ME OVER. Then again, I don't suppose you care because you've got the rest of the public convinced that you're a such a nice young man. Scores - Craig 9, Len 8, Alesha 9 and Bruno 9 for a total of 35.

Kara and Artem walk past my road on their VT, which must mean they've been training at the Virgin Active near me. How did I not know this? Kara reminisces that she will miss coffee breaks and lunch with him (though I have no idea where they'll be eating in Cricklewood); Artem will miss her changing her hair and clothes every three minutes. Kara buys him a vocoding megaphone to use on his next student. Of course, most of all they'll miss each other, but there's no reason to because of course they will be getting married just to shut Tess up.

Aw, they're dancing to If You Don't Know Me By Now. Kara seems to be suffering a few ill-effects from her injury as her feet seem weird as she completely cocks up at the end and he has to haul her across the floor. Still, it's pretty and graceful, as Kara always is. Except when she falls over. Alesha notes the understated performance and says Kara is a great example of what can be achieved. Bruno says it's as if they are playing the music with their bodies - "if you can't see that you're BLIND!" Craig noticed the wobbles and the adjustments but still thinks Kara is the most amazing dancer he has seen on the competition. Len says there were "a few foot-things" but the performance was great. Tess asks whether they think they'll get a 10 from Craig for this one (clearly not), and Kara just ignores the question and decides just to thank everyone for voting and explain that she can't straighten her arm because it's knackered. Kara says it's an emotional evening, and then Tess brilliantly says, "But it doesn't take much for you two to start sobbing." Scores - 9s from Craig and Len, 10s from Alesha and Bruno, for a total of 38.

Time for loser montage - clips of Goldie and Kristina; Paul and Ola; Peter and Erin (nice glimpse of the WAITE in the results show); Tina and CHICKENPOX and Jared; Jimi and Flavia; Michelle and Brendan; Felicity being bendy and Vincent being creepy and tiny; Patsy and Robin and the vests and no confidence; the forces of right-wing evil; Gavin and his self-deprecating metrosexuality and Katya; and of course Scott and Natalie. Let's hope for some epic Natalie Lowe faces on her return. Are they going to dance? Apparently not. Booo. Jimi does a really sarcastic interview with Tess, as does Felicity, and Tess doesn't appear to notice. Ann says she and Anton would have flown in for their showdance and "danced in the air". Gavin says that he's glad to be back playing rugby. Everyone squeals. Michelle goes a bit crazy [just for a change - Steve] in affirming how much she has been watching the show. Patsy has been doing the school run and dancing round the kitchen. Tess then tries to get people to commit to saying who they think will win. They all just bellow at her.

Back to Bruce, and it's one last dance for the couples, playing their "best hand" - their best routine of the series. Matt and Aliona are doing their Viennese waltz of mentalness danced to the song about murder with a Brian Friedman memorial swing in the middle of the floor. Bruno says it was a very nice waltz, and both he and Craig call Matt "darling". Craig thinks the thumbs were better, but the head was worse. Heh. Len says Matt is an excellent dancer and an excellent ballroom dancer, and comments on a problem with the fleckerling. Aliona pulls a face of "Well, I didn't notice it, so it COULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED." Len says it was hardly worth mentioning, and Bruce asks, "Well, why did you then?" Um, because it's his job? Matt says the whole experience has been "dreamy" and that they will leave with their heads held high whatever happens. Scores - Craig 9, Len 9, Alesha 10 and Bruno 9 for a total of 37. Matt brags about how their programme tonight has tried to demonstrate as much "diversity" as possible.

Kara and Artem are dancing the American smooth that broke Artem's neck earlier in the series. When Artem takes her arm to lift her, it genuinely looks like she's trying not to scream. Oh, poor Kara. Some good fake smiling going on. And it's still a magnificent routine. Artem is such a lovely choreographer. At the end, Kara marches over to Bruce as instructed and Artem just stands back to let her take the applause. "I would kill to be able to dance like that," says Craig. Len says, "Unfortunately..." and Kara starts to spew apologies before he even starts to criticise the amount of time spent in hold. Alesha says they have been a delight to watch, and that Kara is a beautiful woman inside and out. Bruno calls it an inspired performance. Artem starts to blub a bit and Tess tells him off. Kara says they did the American smooth despite Len not liking it because she likes it. HA. GO KARA! Tess nudge-nudges about Artem taking Kara out on a date. Shut up, Tess. Scores - Craig 10, Len 7 (fuck off, Len), Alesha 10 and Bruno 10 for a total of 37. That secures them the top spot with the judges, with 150 points to Matt and Aliona's 144, as if it matters.

Ooh, some filler! Who knew? Strictly red carpet launch, pros dancing, random members of the public lying about their favourite moments of the series. This is not a patch on the gospel choir singing "We want Alesha to win Strictly Come Dancing!", which was my favourite thing ever. A lady says she would like to run her fingers through Scott's chest hair. Ew. A small child mocks Bruno's accent, the racialist. I get utterly bored with this montage and stop watching. Sorry. Steve might have paid more attention. [I was too busy voting for Kara. Sorry readers. - Steve]

Ooh, more filler! And hooray, all the contestants take to the floor. Ola circles Paul in her patented "can't be arsed" choreography; some sicko cameraman does several close-ups of Michelle's arse. Then the decentish dancers come in to jive a bit. Brendan is singing. Gavin gets his tits out, hooray! Widdecombe gets to do a floor spin, because of course everything is about her. I half-think Michelle has never seen this routine ever before. Then there's a bit where she just has to walk a few steps forward, which she's had several years of practice at. Gavin pulls an epic "is this over?" face at Katya, which directly precedes a giant lift or two. Everyone beams and cheers. Hooray for this series' losers!


Matt talks about how amazing Aliona is, and the judges have made him believe he can dance, because he is so humble, just like Danyl JOHNSON. He reminds us of how much he fucking ten-trolled for weeks. Then Kara says that Strictly has been everything she thought "and so much more". She feels like a different human being to the one who started the competition three months ago. Artem finds her laughter "irresistible"; Kara says she and Artem are friends for life. Oh, don't sleep with him then. It'll ruin it.

Right, time for the MOMENT OF TRUTH. And the winners of Strictly Come Dancing 2010 are...Kara and Artem! As they should be. Well done them both. Matt does a bit of humbling and says if he were at home then he'd be voting for Kara and Artem too. Hey ho. Just like Eoghan QUIGG, Matt is far less objectionable when you know he's not going to win. Kara and Artem, obviously, are sobbing, because that's what they do; Kara thanks him, Artem calls her amazing, they lift the glitterball trophy and the singers, Dave Arch and his wonderful orchestra play us out with "She's The Greatest Dancer." Artem grabs Kara and forces her a bit into a snog, which is a little bit odd and uncomfortable, but how else could this forced-showmance series end? Apart from perhaps a glittery ambulance driving on to the floor to get that girl to a hospital.

Well, it's been a definite improvement on the past few series, that's for sure. Worthiest winner since Queen Alesha. We'll be back on Christmas Day for the special, featuring Fern Britton, Ronni Ancona and THE BARROWMAN, and we'll be over at Bitching on Ice at the start of January when C-list celebrities at best take on the danger of the blades. Thanks for your company this series, and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

This week on It Takes Two, we have learnt...

- Aliona likes having sequins on her face.
- There's going to be a Strictly-themed episode of A Question of Sport shown over Christmas. Why? Beats us.
- Anton's left foot is two inches bigger than his right foot. Apparently.
- Claudia likes it when Bruno grabs Alesha.
- The dances for Saturday will be the contestants' highest-scoring dance, a dance of their choosing, a dance they have not yet attempted, and the freestyle showdance.
- Artem danced his rumba with James when Kara wasn't around. James looked a little bit too into it, if you ask us.
- Len's favourite name is Poppy, and his second favourite name is Becky.
- The first thing Erin thinks of in the morning is a cup of tea.
- Erin aspires to be Sarah Beeny. Then again, don't we all? And apparently Sarah Beeny has always wanted to be a dancer. If this doesn't lead to a Freaky Friday-style spinoff, we don't know what will.
- If Bruce were a dance, he'd be a tango.
- Vincent would like to be a model if he weren't a dancer. But he doesn't want to be a hand model.
- Matt and Aliona's showdance will be the coolest thing Aliona has danced throughout her career. We imagine the competition for that particular accolade is VAST.
- Your mind and your body are two separate things. THANKS FOR THAT BRAND NEW INFORMATION, MATT BAKER.
- Robin loves the movie Big. It's possible he just jumped to conclusions after hearing the title, though.
- The glitterball trophy is much heavier than it looks.
- People now grasp hold of Ann in the street and ask her to dance with them. Freaks.
- Sarah Hadland, who plays Stevie in Miranda, had not committed fully to watching this series and therefore only made the "maybe" invite list to Miranda's Strictly Soiree.
- Claudia has murdered the Telestrator. RIP Telestrator. :(

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Fleeing double

Semi-final, part two: 11th December 2010

Tess's mysterious glitterball (capable of predicting the past with 95% accuracy) informs us that it's Ballroom Judgement Night. I was under the impression that it had been thus every Saturday since the competition began, since all of those weeks have included Ballroom and Judgement. The glitterball dream remains alive for the final five, who have one last chance to convince the judges and the public that they deserve to make the final, even though most of the people voting probably made their minds up at least four weeks ago in terms of who they wanted to win. Last night, Gavin (unsurprisingly) and Matt (quite surprisingly) got negative reviews for their samba and salsa respectively, while Alesha declared Pamela a woman on a mission, whoa-oh-oh-oh-ooooooh, and also there was some kind of swingathon or something. This weekend, there's double the nerves, double the tension, and double the sad woobie faces of the recently eliminated. This! Is Strictly Come Dancing 2010!

Titles. I love how three of the semi-finalists are grouped together in this sequence, and also happen to be the three that I'm tipping for the final (that's Pamela, Matt and Kara, just in case you hadn't worked it out).

From Television Centre once again, we have a Bruce and we have a Tess. I think the fact that we have to endure her for three successive nights this week is going to put us all well over our Recommended Daly Allowance. Daly Dresswatch: an asymmetric purple number with one sleeve and one bare arm, which I rather like, although it does clamp down rather firmly around the boobs. She'll have someone's eye out with those. Vincent is in the audience, as is Zöe Lucker. Tess opines that last night's show was rather marvellous, and she particularly enjoyed the swingathon. Bruce was less keen, because those big flowery dresses worn by the ladies were made out of material nicked from his dressing room curtains. Wah wahhhh. Seriously, who made Bruce's dressing room curtains - Cath Kidston? Tess: "If you thought last night was good, wait 'til tonight." My boyfriend: "Um...I did?" Tess continues that as well as the five finalists, we also have five more people who never expected to make it this far: Take That. Karen Hardy applauds enthusiastically from the audience; I have a Robbie-and-Gary flashback from earlier in the series and bang my head against the wall.

Time to meet the stars of our show: Scott and Natalie, ready for a sailors' hornpipe; Matt and Aliona, ready for a performance of Bugsy Malone; Kara and Artem, ready for the new BBC3 documentary When Hair Extensions Attack; Pamela and James, ready for Bradford And Bingley: A Musical Love Story and Gavin and Katya, ready to be eliminated tomorrow. Bruce cracks a joke about it being hard to tell which are the celebrities and the professionals, because the pros are acting like divas. That's as close as it gets to a punchline, I'm afraid. Tess reminds us of the scores after last night, with Kara topping the leaderboard, Pamela in second, Scott third, Matt fourth (!) and Gavin fifth, and Bruce reminds us that the two couples with the lowest combined scores will be booted unceremoniously "tomorrow". "It's ballroom, baby, and people get hurt!" grins Tess. This goes down like the proverbial lead balloon.

First to dance tonight are Scott and Natalie, with their nautically-themed charleston. For tonight's show, each contestant is going to get Their Semi-Final Story for their VT, complete with judges' evaluations of their Journey. Scott's Argentine tango got "yeah, s'pose, it was all right *shrug*" responses from the panel last night, and Scott admits to being "a bit gutted" because he didn't do it as well as he should've done. The judges deliberate over Scott's progress, and Alesha states that he's had "ups and downs". The term is "rise and fall", Alesha, God, BRING BACK ARLENE. (Just kidding, I don't want Arlene back at all, don't try to recruit me for your Facebook petition.) Len reasons that when Scott's bad, he's terrible. They revisit his samba, and Len asks Craig if it really deserved a six. "No, when I look at it, it deserved a five," Craig retorts. Len scowls, Alesha claps. Len says that Scott has to become more consistent, and Craig cites Scott's problems with his hips. "They're either too soft or too stiff," agrees Len, "and I like a stiff one every time." Alesha collapses with giggles. The judges remember his jive fondly, but realise that nothing much of note followed it. His tendency to blank on the dancefloor recently has also been a problem. Len thinks charleston will suit him, while Craig thinks there's still a question mark over him. Alesha and Bruno agree that you never know what will happen. Scott vows to give it his best shot.

They're dancing to 'Anything Goes', and it's at this point that I realise I've never had the pleasure of seeing a Natalie Lowe Charleston Face before. I do hope I'm not going to be disappointed. It's a bit of a mixed bag, choreographically - Scott does well with the goofy swinging of his legs, but the parts that involve him supporting Natalie for the more gymnastic manoeuvres are quite stuttery, and his face looks quite nervous. His musicality in this song is pretty good, though, and he manages to flail his arms while still seeming in control, which is quite impressive. Speaking of impressive, there are many wonderful Natalie Lowe Charleston Faces, so I am very happy.

Bruce introduces the "wise old birds" that constitute the judges. Bruno is "an old mother hen" (homophobe!), Alesha is "as pretty as a peacock", Len has "the eyes of a hawk", and if Craig keeps upsetting people, he'll be "dead as a dodo". Oh dear. Bruce teases Bruno by letting him think that he's going to open for the judges but instead throws to Len, who says that the fight for the final starts now, and that charleston has done Scott no harm at all. He saw lots of the steps he wanted, was pleased that it wasn't too gimmick-heavy, and despite a few stumbles, he thought it was fun. Alesha thinks it was good old-fashioned entertainment with great swivels, and it was full of personality. Bruno thinks that "after seven months at sea you've found a flapper and you're ready for action." He thinks that Scott gave entertainment, exuberance and comedy in the dance, which is what the charleston needs. Craig didn't like the opening sequence and thought Scott overbalanced horribly in the dip, to the point of nearly dropping Natalie, but he thought that overall it was cute and quirky and he enjoyed it.

They run up to the Tess Circle - Natalie actually full-on flapper-runs up there, God bless her. Method to the very end, clearly - and Tess asks Scott how it's going, since he's done three dances in less than 24 hours. It doesn't really sound that strenuous when she puts it like that, does it? Scott burbles about being grateful to the viewers for saving him from the bottom two, even though those same viewers landed him there in the first place, and says that being so close to the final, he wants to go on and get better. Tess garbles that the next time they'll see him dancing will either be in the final or...never. Surely the next time we'll see him dance will be in the final either way? The eliminated celebrities all return for a last hurrah at that point, unless they're Tuffers and they're ill, or they're Laila Rouass and they don't really give a rat's ass. Scores: Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35, and an overall score of 70 for the weekend. Natalie declares that "beautiful" and they high-five.

The next couple is Kara and Artem, on second for the second night in a row. The judges loved their Viennese waltz last night and they got three tens for their troubles. However, Kara's still a Cautious Carol and notes that they can't rest on their laurels even though they're top of the leaderboard, because there's still another dance to come. Over to the judges: Len thinks Kara's talented, and Alesha thinks they're lucky to have such natural chemistry. Len worries that she's too careful and timid in her dances, like in her charleston, and says that great dancing is about "dancing on the edge". I would've thought that would give you terrible balance problems, myself. Alesha recalls Kara's paso doble, which Len thinks was her turning point. Alesha thinks Kara's coming out of her shell now. The judges are very excited to see her doing a rumba, and Alesha hopes she really lets go and gets emotionally involved with the dance. Craig thinks she needs to be perfect, and Kara admits that she's "a wobbly person", while Bruno thinks that a little stumble, should it happen, will prove a costly error. Kara VTs that she's made a few mistakes in the past (and her week one stumble rears its ugly head again) but she's going to have to go out and give a flawless performance if she wants to make the final.

Their rumba is to Santana's 'Samba Pa Ti', which is known to me for being a song that my dad plays a lot, but is known to nearly everyone else for being That Song Off The M&S Adverts, and as a result, Twitter explodes in a burst of "this is not just a rumba, this is an M&S rumba" for the next five minutes. The floor is swamped with dry ice, and the routine is full of daring moves, with lots of spins and stretches and dips, and Kara's precision really is something to be envied. Sadly, there's a point where Artem picks her up and twirls her around and I catch her foot losing contact with the floor, and I know Craig's going to pick her up on that and my heart sinks a little bit, but it's still an absolutely gorgeous routine. I'm not sure about Kara's dress, though - it basically looks like she's wearing a giant pink hanky held up with a bit of tit-tape.

Bruce congratulates Artem on the routine, and likens Kara's dress to blancmange. Bruce takes this time to welcome the fabulous singers and the wonderful orchestra, even though the music Kara just danced to was an instrumental. Then again, that's probably the best time to welcome the singers, as it's probably the point in the show where viewer goodwill towards them is likely to be at its highest. Alesha says that it's not often that a couple moves you emotionally, but she could watch Kara dance all night as she and Artem are mesmerising. She thinks it was just pure magic, and they mastered it technically and emotionally. Bruno growls that Kara is "a goddess of love" and thinks that the quality of her dancing was of a professional standard tonight. "You have to make the final," he insists, coming over all Louis Walsh suddenly. Craig declares it "almost perfect" and if they hadn't put "that lift" in, he may have "dusted off my ten". Kara murmurs that Craig was right last night, and then there's a moment where Kara turns to Artem and is all "I didn't take my foot off the floor...did I?" Sweetie, you did, and it pains me to admit it. Len tells Kara she's not supposed to dance that well, and he thinks she moved beautifully. Bruce loved that everything they did fitted the music, as if anyone cares.

Up in the Tess Circle, Kara confesses that she's never been so nervous, and says that "you can fall over so easily", clearly tearing up as she says this, and then she suddenly realises that she's sounding rather sob-approaching and goes "oh God!" and clamps her hand over her mouth rather adorably, giggling. Tess tells them they made it look easy, and Kara says that if that's the case, it's all thanks to Artem. Tess decides not to revisit liftgate, and at this point Kara has basically decided to stop talking entirely lest she start crying properly this time, so we move straight to judges' scores: Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39, with their combined score coming to 83. Tess gets them to beg for a spot in the final, and Kara teases that Artem has awesome showdance plans, should they make it that far.

Matt and Aliona are up next, and we're reminded that they got poor reviews for their salsa. Afterwards, a stony-faced Matt walks past the waiting camera crew, as a crew member asks if he's all right and gets a sullen "yeah" in response as Matt strides past, taking his shirt off. And I realise he only had a short amount of time to get changed for the swingathon, but still...there are much classier ways to handle that situation, aren't there? [I loathe him so much. I loathe him nearly as much as I loathed Tom Chambers. - Carrie] A refreshed-looking Matt from earlier today says that they got their worst score ever last night, so tonight's dance really counts. Craig is saddled with the thankless line about "who would've thought Matt would be such an amazing acrobat and an incredible dancer?" Yes, indeed, who would've thought that trained gymnast Matt would have so many gymnastic tricks up his sleeve? Give me strength. Len hasn't enjoyed all of Aliona's gimmicks, but he thinks they've been clever. He opines that Matt is always good but seldom great. Alesha thinks Matt is consistent but overly-serious sometimes. Len recognises Matt's intense desire to make the final, and worries that as a result he overdances. Essentially, the judges all think he needs to relax and ease his way in. It's a bit like anal sex, basically. [Oh, Steve. - Carrie] They discuss his acting skills, and I was all set to make another "yes, who would've thought someone who did a drama degree would be good at acting?" sneery comment until I realised that I did a drama degree and I can't act at all, and neither could a lot of people on my course. Fine, you win this one, Baker. The judges think the tango will suit him because it's an aggressive dance, and Bruno thinks he can let his anger out. Matt wants to make the final, and wants to show them that he can be great, not just good.

They're dancing to 'Hung Up' by Madonna, which is a bit of an odd musical choice, but the dancing here is pretty good. As the judges indicated, Matt's serious demeanour is perfect for a tango, and despite some of Aliona's more questionable choreographic choices (there's a move where he basically holds her behind his back and twirls her around the floor while she puts one leg in the air, which looks incredibly ugly), the overall content of the dance is very good, and Matt performs it pretty much flawlessly.

Bruno thinks it was strong, powerful and driven with a hint of arrogance. He thinks Matt leads well, and this dance suits him. Craig didn't like the horrid lift that I mentioned earlier, but thought Matt danced with military precision, and it was controlled and full of purpose. Len thinks Matt was cooking on gas tonight ("last night you had a bit of fluff in one of the burners or something"), he thinks Matt's hold was great and the movement around the floor was fabulous. Alesha finishes by saying that it was powerful, driven and purposeful, and although Matt took a beating last night, he's just proven why he deserves a spot in the final.

They scoot up to the Tess Circle, where Matt confesses he's had a difficult day, but Aliona's done a great job of keeping him calm and getting him through it. Tess asks him how he'll approach the four dances required for the final, and Matt reveals that he's managed to get time off from all sixteen of his other jobs so he'll actually have time to rehearse them if he gets that far. Scores: Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10, Bruno 9, giving Matt 38 for his tango, and a total of 70 for the whole weekend.

The fourth couple to hit the floor is Gavin and Katya. Gavin really enjoyed his samba yesterday, even if the judges didn't, so he's a bit disappointed with the scores. Len and Craig are surprised by Gavin's timidity on the dancefloor. Alesha insists that he's trying hard, and Len likes the fact that he comes back week after week, whatever they throw at him. There's a selection of Craig's "finest" insults, and the judges discuss his improved posture. Alesha says she was unsure at first about Gavin using his body to impress people, but thinks there's no harm in using your assets to your advantage. Len thinks that Gavin needs to believe in himself more and banish the nerves. Gavin says that he thinks he's got a handle on dancing in front of 14 million people now and he knows how to cope with it.

Their Viennese waltz is to 'You Know Me' by Robbie Williams (ugh), and Katya's choreography for this is absolutely beautiful, though there are clearly points where Gavin loses time with the music, and as a result he's sometimes a bit leaden in his movements. If this is his last dance of the competition - and I suspect it will be - it's a good dance to go out on, however.

Craig says that timing is an essential element of dance, and says that there was only one section of the dance that was in time, and for the rest of it they either "chose to cross-phrase" or they were off-time. Katya disputes this, saying that it was one section, and it was something she'd deliberately done to avoid crashing into the lamps. Craig in turn disputes her version of events, and it all gets a bit "yeah, well, SO'S YOUR MUM" between them. Len thinks Gavin had good footwork and good posture, so while he lost a bit of musicality, Gavin is Len's hero because he's come back strong every week. Alesha is more at ease watching Gavin in ballroom - she thinks he has timing issues sometimes, but she still thinks that Gavin is the most improved contestant, and that he should be proud of what he's achieved. Bruno thinks it was elegant and smooth, and despite the issues, it's such an improvement from his performance in the first week.

Up in the Tess Circle, Gavin's grinning at the prospect of being Len's hero. Don't get too excited, Gavin, he does tend to develop irrational attachments to SPORTSMEN irrespective of dancing ability. Gavin tells Tess that he realises he's bottom of the leaderboard, but he hopes that the public are enjoying watching him enough to keep him around. Tess asks Gavin to say he wants the glitterball, and Gavin's all "I want the glitterball?" Katya says she's "so proud" of Gavin. Scores: Craig 6, Len 9, Alesha 8, Bruno 8 to give Gavin 31 for his Viennese waltz and a total of 59 for the weekend. Katya says that she thinks the six from Craig was "below the belt" and Gavin says that Craig's "picked on" them all along. Tess asks Gavin to convince us why he should make the final, as she has everyone else, and Gavin still hasn't mastered the self-sell at this point, settling instead for the "er, if you enjoyed it, vote for me? Please?" approach. Way to beat those nerves, Gavin!

Concluding the line-up this evening are Pamela and James. Pamela got good reports for her paso doble last night, although Craig spotted some wobbles, so naturally James bursts through the doors afterwards and announces that "those teetering moments were CHOREOGRAPHED!" Oh, all right: heh. James tells Pamela she's done enough to get into the final in his eyes. Len says that there's just one word for Pamela, and Alesha steals his thunder: "breathtaking". Bruno thinks Pamela gets younger by the week. Craig and Bruno burst into a spontaenous rendition of 'Venus', and Craig's favourite Pamela moment was her near-fall coming out of the floorspin in her salsa (hey, mine too!). Len thinks Pamela is "a goer" and she's equally at home in ballroom and Latin. The judges all congratulate Craig somewhat sarcastically on unleashing his first ten for her, and Craig would love to see her in the final, because she's feisty. Len thinks she just needs to keep doing what she's doing to make the final, and if she does so, then Billy Connolly, TO WHOM SHE IS MARRIED, should be in the next series. Pamela vows to go out on the floor and give it all she's got.

Their quickstep is to 'Steppin' Out With My Baby', and involves a bit of prancing around with top hats and canes before Pamela strips down to reveal her skirt, which is quite possibly the ugliest thing I've ever seen on this show, including Jan Ravens' behaviour when she was eliminated - it looks like someone's stitched together three or four hats that fell out of a Christmas cracker, only for the stitching to come apart when Pamela put it on. The quickstep part is decent, though the footwork's a tad laboured for my tastes, and there's a tap breakdown, which I would be fine with if it didn't give Tom Chambers trauma flashbacks. Also, it's so brief as to be barely worth it. It's a cute routine, though, and I enjoyed it.

Len loved the feel of the dance, and the little bit of soft-shoe shuffle. He thought her posture and hold as she went around were great, and declares her "a class act". Alesha thinks Pamela's passion for dance lights up the room, and that she showed true showmanship (shouldn't that be showwomanship?) at the top of the routine. She liked the tap section, and thinks Pamela is an inspiration to So Many Women, which makes her a winner already. Bruno calls her a "Broadway Babe" and says that he loved the beginning, and the flow into a beautiful, "correct", quickstep. Craig declares it "one word, three syllables, starts with F." Fuckinell? Oh, "fabulous". I see.

They rush off to the Tess Circle, and Pamela expresses her fear that she'll deafen James with her screams of excitement at this rate. Tess says that Pamela "shied away from the spotlight for so long" before signing up for the show (can't say I noticed, personally - she had her own sex column in the newspaper and her own television series, which doesn't really strike me as especially wallflowerish behaviour) and wants to know what it's like being back in it. Pamela admits that she's loved it, and thinks it'll be hard going back to normality, as she'll want to don her support tights and spray tan. Well, do it anyway, Pam - it's never stopped Gavin. Pamela says she's so grateful to everyone who's kept in so far. Scores: tens all round, giving Pamela 78 for the weekend. I enjoyed that quickstep, but I'm not entirely sure it was 40-worthy. I hope they don't start going all Lisa Snowdon with Pamela again in the final, assuming she makes it there. Pamela thanks James for his "efforts to get this granny moving around the floor that way." James accepts this comment as gracefully as ever and then starts ravishing her on the sofa. Get a room. Sheesh.

Final leaderboard: Kara and Artem still top, Pamela and James still second, Matt and Aliona and Scott and Natalie now tied for third, and Gavin and Katya at the bottom. So much for "anything can change in the second round", eh?

Tess declares the lines officially open, and it's time for a recap of all the performances from the weekend. Scott and Natalie's slightly slouchy Argentine tango and their leg-flailing charleston; Kara and Artem's illegal lifting Viennese waltz and their illegal lifting rumba (tsk tsk, you two); Matt and Aliona's mess of a salsa and spectacular recovery of a tango, Gavin and Katya's hip-free samba and off-time Viennese waltz; Pamela and James' Gagariffic paso doble and their quickstep, guest-starring the Skirt Of Horror; and the swingathon in which it was never terribly easy to see who was doing what, but Pamela was wearing some really ugly trainers.

After that, it's time for Take That, performing new single 'The Flood', now with 100% more Robbie Williams, which is at least 200% more Robbie Williams than is ever necessary for anything. I realise this is likely to make me unpopular with a lot of people, but I'm actually kind of sick of Take That and their turgid man-band-ness. I wasn't a massive fan even before Robbie returned, and now he's back they seem to have become even worse, especially if this rather off-key performance is anything to go by. Still, I appreciate the performance at least in terms of it being at least five minutes of footage that only requires about two minutes' worth of recapping. Hey, if they can't entertain me, they can at least make my job easier.

Afterwards, Tess promises another performance from Take That in the results show (argh), and then it's time for the obligatory "please can I be in the final?" VT. Pamela says that the show has utterly rejuvenated her, and she's really proud of what she and James have achieved together. GAvin says that he's gone out in the semi-finals in rugby and it's not a nice feeling, and he'd love to make the final of this show as he and Katya have worked so hard. Scott says that he's given everything to this competition, and to make the finals would be the icing on the cake. Matt can almost taste the final, and just wants to have the chance to go out there, dance his heart out, and lift the glitterball. Katya thinks that she and Artem have made a good team, and she thinks that to get to the final would be a suitable reward for all the hard work he's put into her (FNAR) and winning outright would be "the perfect ending to a perfect couple of months".

So that's the end of the performances - now it's all over bar the DOUBLE ELIMINATION. Exciting stuff!

Results: 12th December

Tess informs us that there are five couples left, but only three can make the final. Yes, Tess, we already know this. Can we have new information now please? Titles!

The producers have remembered to book the showdance troupe this week, so they're opening the show with a skirt-twirling paso doble to 'Fire With Fire' by Scissor Sisters. Ian appears to be absent, much to my distress, but to make up for it, there is LADY-CAPING APLENTY. I'm sure Kelly Brook will approve of this. Actually, parts of the routine are a little bit sloppy, but I am in a forgiving mood after all the amazing LADY-CAPING. I'm so easily swayed. After the routine, there's a shot of all the judges looking up and to the left, and definitely not at the floor in front of them. I'm guessing that was a pre-recorded routine, then. [This was dreadful. The showdance troupe suck. - Carrie]

Since the main show was on earlier than normal, there was time for Bruce to do the results before his bedtime cup of cocoa, so he's joining Tess this week instead of Claudia. Daly Dresswatch: red, tight, with a weird ruffly hem thing around her midriff even though the dress itself continues way below there. They tease the upcoming performance from Take That, and terrifyingly, a vocal performance from Bruce and one of the Strictly Singers. I feel this cannot end well. [It will not even start well. - Carrie]

Time for a recap of the weekend: Len thinks it was 48 hours of fabulous dancing. Pamela's paso has reduced Len to incoherence, moreso than usual, and Craig thinks she's quickstepped her way into the final. Alesha thinks Kara was the belle of the ball, and Len thinks she gave two fantastic performances. Len will pickle his fabled walnuts if she isn't in the final. Bruno thinks Gavin has come a long way from the beginning, but the competition is tough. Len thinks the samba was unfortunate, but Gavin did a great job with his Viennese waltz. Scott's Argentine tango was a bit lukewarm for Alesha, but they did better with the charleston, and Scott and Natalie were happy with the performance. Craig thinks Matt's salsa wasn't entirely a salsa, but Alesha says that his return on Saturday was almost as though their comments wound him up enough to come back and prove himself. And in fairness, they probably did. Len thought the swingathon would be a disaster, and he was right. Except that's not what he says. Len concludes by saying that no one has a clue who's making the final, so they'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Time for the initial bout of results. The first couple through to the final is...Pamela and James. Oh good. I can't wait for all the "this is the first time James has made the final" stories for the next week which will pretty much ignore Pamela's existence completely. The second couple through is Kara and Artem. Artem falls to the floor with sheer joy. The remaining three will have to wait longer to discover their fate.

Bruce asks Len to explain the showdance. Len says that it can make you, or Lisa Snowden you. Anything goes choreographically, which means Aliona is probably going to go full-on nutso (assuming Matt and Aliona get through, but come on).

Tess is up in the Tess Circle with the two safe couples, and Artem is crying with happiness, so everyone laughs at him. Pamela talks about how BILLY CONNOLLY TO WHOM SHE IS MARRIED and James have both been crying tonight, and she wants to thank everyone who's supported her and kept her around this long. Kara admits to being an emotional wreck, and that everyone's cried at some point. Tess gets prematurely excited about their showdances.

After this, Bruce and Lance from the band perform a song that appears to be about Goldilocks and the Three Bears, with Ola coming out to do her very best performance art as Goldilocks. Seriously, I don't even know what the fuck's going on any more. Suddenly that Duffy performance doesn't seem so bad in hindsight. Ola whirls Bruce around the floor a few times until he needs a little sit down, then returns him to the stage while she dances out a bit more. Then, finally, it's over and I'm still absolutely none the wiser as to what I've just sat through, but I feel faintly violated.

Tess is with the limbo couples, and asks who's feeling the most confident. Gavin raises his hand, satirically: "I always believe in myself." Hee! Scott says they've all made it to the semi-final, and he'd love to make the final for Natalie, because she's earned it. Matt says he's pleased that they really went for it with their tango, and it's really hard to think that only one of the men will make the final, as they've all stuck together this far.

After that, Take That are back to torture me some more, singing 'Back For Good' in public for the first time since Robbie returned. Mark Owen looks almost as bored as I feel. In fact, I made all my feelings regarding Take That perfectly clear in the recap of last night's show, so let's just move on.

Tess insincerely declares the performance "awesome" from the safety of the balcony, before we get the off-cuts from the VTs we saw last night. Gavin wants to win and believes it's his destiny. Scott wants to win, because that was his goal when he entered. Matt wants to win because he's PUSHED HIMSELF SO HARD, WHY DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT ALESHA. Or something.

Time to find out who's going home then. In no particular order (interesting), the first couple leaving is Gavin and Katya. Scott applauds them ferociously, as does Matt. The crowd come to their feet. Gavin says that Katya's been amazing and this has been an awesome experience, and he came in with two left feet, but Katya's made a bit of a dancer out of him. Katya says that Gavin taught her patience (HAHAHA) and she couldn't have asked for a better partner. We relive their highlights, and Gavin says that the standing ovations were inspiring. Gavin recalls kissing Bruno, and claims to be not a fan of getting his body out, blaming Katya for all the times he's done it. He says he'll really miss the show, and declares it "a turning point in [his] life". D'awww.

So which of our remaining couples will proceed to the final? Well, it isn't...Scott and Natalie. So Matt and Aliona are in the final, as I think we all knew they would be. Scott says that this has been the best experience of his life, maybe, and tackling something that you have no skillset in is a real challenge, especially when you're doing it live, and thanks Natalie for getting him this far because she's "spectacular". She sure is. We relive their journey on the show too, and Scott says he won't forget the show, and never expected to embrace it in the way that he did. He can't go anywhere without people spitting "Sssssscccccottttt!" at him now, and like Gavin, cites the standing ovations as being particularly inspiring. He thinks it's been a challenge, but he's enjoyed every single minute.

Scott thanks Bruce one final time, and heads over for his final dance. Next week, the finalists will tackle four dances each in their bid to become the 2010 champions. Gavin and Katya and Scott and Natalie dance to the deliciously cruel soundtrack of 'Didn't We Almost Have It All' as the others come back out to give them all hugs. James whispers something in Gavin's ear. Aliona tries to make out with Natalie. And that's it! We'll be back next week for the final - do join us!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Swing while you're winning

Semi-final, part one
Tx: Friday 10th December, 2010

Evening all! Well, it's a Strictly three-parter and a hell of a lot of dancing to get through as well as obligatory filler VTs, so we should get going as soon as possible. Shall we, then?

We begin with a shot of the fabled glitterball, and then a little VT of our remaining contestants -all of whom are vividly dreaming of the ways in which they may triumph. Gavin narrates it in a rugby-commentary style, Matt in his sleeptalking urges the judges to sit down and stop with all the standing ovations (it's funny because it's true). Pamela does something...oh, probably mentioning Billy Connolly or something, I forget. Scott probably just stays asleep because he's so very tired all the time, and don't forget that, because he works so hard, boo hoo. And Kara sleeps clutching a guidebook to Russia, but not Artem himself, obviously, because they're not going to do anything dirty and inappropriate like that while they're competing.


And it's good evening to Bruce and Tess! Tonight Tess is wearing a simple black dress that does appear to have a tail, but apart from that it's highly presentable. Well done, Tess, and thank you! It's nice to see us, to see us nice, as always, and Bruce talks us through the rules of the weekend's competition (two nights of competition before the results show, when two couples will leave), before introducing our couples. Kara is in a dress made of turquoise toilet paper; James has got his tatts out; Gavin has got his tits out. Looking like a good night in prospect, then.

Pamela VTs opening her birthday cards from last week. Remember, everybody, it was her birthday, and she was 61. SIXTY-ONE, WHO KNEW? the phrase "From James and Ola" seems to stick in her throat. Not as much as the word "Supergran" does, though, which is also written in the caard. Mostly this week, James seems to be back to Bad James, having successfully hidden that streak for much of the series, and shouting at her a lot; ah, the truth will out, Jordan. You may pretend you've mellowed over the years but we all know the angry aggressive bully is in there somewhere.

They're dancing the paso to Bad Romance with a chair as a prop, which seems a bit superfluous and clunky to me, but Pamela, with her hair up in Spanish style, is channelling all Gaga's crazy and stomping around the floor (as well as stumbling a bit). Strong Spanish lines and armwork here, along with lots of skirt-swishing; a really nicely-presented paso. At the end, Bruce begins to reprise the song. Triple doses of Bruce this weekend, all. Just sayin'.

Len says they captured the spirit of the dance and he liked the messing abaaaaht with the chair; Alesha admires the focus and the character; and then BRUNO begins to reprise the song too. Triple doses of Bruno this weekend, all. Just sayin'. Craig liked the strong lines and attitude as well as the skirt-caping. Bruce tells Pamela and James they're his favourites. Scores - Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha 9 and Bruno 9 for a total of 35,

Kara and Artem next. My, that man looks good in a tux. She wonders if she is just a "tango person" after last week's performance, and then gets her words mixed up, of course, because that's what Kara does. She's clearly not a rehearsal person this week - she sits down a lot and Artem glares at her a lot from across the room. Then she screams and runs out. Artem does not seem like he is particularly bothered.

They're Viennese waltzing to Stop (the Sam Brown song, as beloved by my colleague), and there's lots of spinning, lots of drama, and it ends with Artem's face in Kara's bosom. That's the kind of racy ballroom routine that means this show is on after the watershed tonight. Alesha praises their synchronicity and Kara's unassuming nature, which is "endearing", apparently, unlike being confident, which as it's tantamount to arrogance is the kiss of death, obviously. Bruno calls it a "work of art"; Craig criticises the end spin because Kara's foot came off the ground and the others shout at him (well, I thought it did too); and Len says that Kara's Viennese waltz is just as brilliant as Alesha's was. Bruce tells Kara and Artem they're his favourites too. I think we see how this is going to go. Kara tells Tess that if her foot came off the floor it was unintentional. Way to play it down, Kara! Tess tells Kara that she's looking forward to seeing their rumba tomorrow night. Seriously, Tess, you're not going to be happy until you see the sheets displayed in public after their wedding night, are you? Scores - Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10 and Bruno 10 for a total of 39.

After Bruce reminds us how old he is, as if we weren't all well aware of his decrepitude, we're into a VT of Gavin doing chin-ups and doing self-effacing pieces-to-camera - all the things he does best. Not playing rugby or dancing, obviously. Then it's to Wales, where people have written supportive slogans on sheep, and choirs rehearse pro-Henson songs. Katya gets stroppy with him in rehearsal and he looks utterly puzzled - "my brain is actually hurting!" There's a brilliant bit where Katya tries and fails to get him to move away from a mirror, and I genuinely don't think he can hear her, overwhelmed as he is with his own beauty.

They're sambaing and bless his little heart, he's trying his best and looks happy, which is something and definitely progress, but he does manage to knock Katya off balance at least once. It's a very methodical samba rather than a party; you can almost hear him counting the beats aloud. Bruno thinks he doesn't quite connect with the music, but his performance is improving. Craig is unimpressed. Gavin gyrates at him. This week, of all the many, many, many dances that are REALLY HARD FOR MEN, Len thinks the samba is the most technically challenging for a man: "you've got the guns, you just didn't have the ammunition." Alesha thinks Gavin is the underdog but he is the most improved. Bruce tells Gavin and Katya they are, bien sur, his favourites. Gavin tells Tess he enjoyed it and thought he was all right. Tess makes Gavin gyrate again. Tess, get some bromide. Scores - Craig 6, Len 7, Alesha 7 and Bruno 7 for a total of 27.

Scott and Natalie next. They sad-VT about being in the bottom two last week, and Natalie reveals that Scott is the best partner she's ever danced with. Take that, Ricky Whittle! Natalie's judgement, it burns! In rehearsal, Scott struggles to lift Natalie - "she's NOT FAT!" he rushes to explain as Natalie begins to plot her revenge from across the room. "She is MUSCULAR. It's ALL MUSCLE!" Natalie apologises to him: "I know I'm heavy." I wish I were as heavy as her.

They've got a prop too, which is, of course, in the grand tradition of the Argentine tango, a lamp-post; and they're dancing to the the Finish dishwasher tablet advert? Scott's side-parting certainly adds to the sense of tango, but he looks overshadowed by Natalie's statuesque magnificence throughout the routine. Craig loved it, but suggests more swivel on the closes and stronger leading; Len liked the lifts but didn't think Scott was like "a young guy out on the town trying to pick up a hot bit of totty" (oh, LEN); Alesha wanted to see more strength; and Bruno concludes, "I think I actually got it, Ssssssssssscott!" and likens the routine to film noir, earning him a gracious "at last, someone understands my genius choreography" look from Natalie. Guess what? Scott and Natalie are Bruce's favourites. They promise us sabotage on the dancefloor during the swingathon, as we could all have predicted thanks to the example of Dancing with the Stars. Scores - Craig 8, Len 8, Alesha 8 and Bruno 9 for a total of 33.

As you'll remember Matt and Aliona did comedy character jiving last week. He's happy that they've never been out of the top three, and is now going to dedicate everything to the cause of winning the competition. Basically this means doing everything Aliona says unquestioningly. If I were Aliona, I'd take the opportunity for a spot of mischief and play one week-long round of 'Aliona Says' and see how long it took him to realise I was winding him up. Saying something like, "Stand there while I punch you in the face repeatedly. No, really, it's good for you."

Eleven weeks in, and I've still not acclimatised myself to the sight of Matt Baker thrusting his groin at his partner. There's more of the same in this salsa. And not a great deal else. Len is even less keen on it than I am, and he eviscerates the entire choreography. Alesha doesn't like it either, and suggests he relax more. Bruno says he knows how much Matt wants to win, but he's working so hard that it changes the look of the dance. Craig concurs, of course. Everyone agrees that there's a lot of basic salsa content but nothing technically challenging or impressive. Aliona is glaring at everyone like it's their fault and not hers because she is the worst choreographer in the world. And finally Bruce has real reason to tell one of the couples that they're his favourites. Matt sulks at Tess: "I can't do any more than I'm doing." Obviously he's disappointed, but it comes across as really quite ungracious, but then would we really have expected anything else? Anyway, straight 7s for their lowest-ever total of 28.

The boys warm up for the swingdance by wrestling with each other as Tess talks to the camera. Someone clearly tells them off as they suddenly stop, stand up and look a bit shamefaced. Quick VT where Len explains the rules of the swingathon (it's a knockout, last couple standing gets five points, first out gets one), Gavin draws a tactics map for Katya, Kara predicts carnage, and the boys wrestle some more. How homoerotic! Here we go, then...

...Gavin is kicking and flicking all over the place, but it's not in time with Katya, or indeed the music. They're first out, and have to be manhandled off the floor. Scott and Natalie are next to fall - he looks shattered, probably because he is so very tired due to working two jobs, POOR SCOTT. Meanwhile, Artem and Matt compete with acrobatics, and unsurprisingly that means Pamela and James are knocked out next. The audience are actually chanting people's names at this point, but not in rhythm to the music. Sigh. Matt and Aliona leave next, leaving Kara and Artem dancing at the end. Artem crashes to the floor with exhaustion as Kara ignores him and wanders off to hug her rivals. Neither of them manage to exhale a full sentence despite Bruce's prompting. Tiring work, the swingdance.

So that's it for tonight. Kara and Artem top the leaderboard; Gavin and Katya are at the bottom, as we could probably have predicted without seeing anyone dance, so one could argue that the whole night has been one whole waste of time, then. But don't forget that could all change tomorrow night, when everyone dances their second routine! The phonelines aren't even open yet! Join Steve later to see how it all pans out!

Monday, 6 December 2010

This week on It Takes Two, we have learnt...

- Katya cried twice on Sunday, and twice on Monday. This is apparently what trying to teach Gavin three dances does to her.
- James has to remind himself sometimes that Pamela is sixty-one. Which is apparently why he has to remind us ALL THE DAMN TIME.
- Robin's two biggest loves in the world are performing and teaching. Not vests, despite what you might think.
- Flavia is amazing at cleaning poo.
- Natalie nearly broke her thumb ripping Scott's shirt off.
- Len prefers a stiff one to a floppy one.
- Erin does not play any musical instruments.
- Artem's face when he's concentrating is kind of adorable.
- Erin's favourite dance in Strictly history is John and Kristina's paso doble. Okay then.
- The show has gone through 4,000 pairs of dancing shoes over eight series.
- Jared's dream job is to be a spy.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Widdecombe, Widdy go

Top 6 - Movie Night: 4th December 2010

The theme weeks are really out in force this year, aren't they? I feel like I can't complain too much about the overabundance of gimmicks since I actually really enjoyed Hallowe'en Night, but at the same time, I'm still somewhat wary because I also watched TV Theme Week on Dancing With The Stars, which was an absolute mess. (A tango to the theme from The Brady Bunch? A foxtrot to the theme from Charlie's Angels? Even the memories still hurt.)

Anyway, we begin with "Seven days ago on a dancefloor far far away", and I hope you don't need me to tell you what movie that's from. This segues into Strictly Strikes Back: Episode 10 where all the celebrities are introduced as archetypal film characters. There's the princess (Kara), the farmboy (GUESS. GO ON, JUST FUCKING GUESS), the lovable rogue (Scott), the Wookiee's wife (Pamela, complete with shot of BILLY CONNOLLY, TO WHOM SHE IS MARRIED), the handsome droid (Gavin, which I take to be a total shout-out to Monkseal), and one woman set on intergalactic dance domination (Widdy, who's Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz. I think we all know which character she really ought to have been playing from that film, though). Bruce intones that the makers of "Strictly Halloween" and "Vegas Special" (that was meant to be a theme week?) bring us "Movie Night", and we're shown shots of Pamela and James titting it around in the pottery scene from Ghost, Matt as Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery and Scott and Gavin doing The Full Monty. I can guarantee you now that at least one of those shots is going to be extremely misleading as to what lies ahead. And sadly, it isn't the one of Pamela and James.

To continue the theme, the titles are preceded by Bruce pretending to be the lion in the MGM title card. "Rar! Rar!" growls Brucie. Enjoy it, because it's the most sense he's going to make for the next hour. The titles themselves are broadly the same, except the glitterball at the end is replaced by a reel of film, they actually have the subtitle "Movie Night", there's a "Strictlywood" sign in the background and a mock-up of Bruce in the director's chair. Can you imagine Bruce directing the show? By the time he'd stammered out which camera he wanted for the opening number, we'd be halfway through The X Factor.

We open with a pro number, starting with Robin and Kristina doing a swing routine to 'You're The One That I Want' from Grease. Kristina looks alarmingly like Felicity Kendal all trussed up as Hooker Sandy like that, and I think we all know that Robin's far more suited to playing Leo what leads The Scorpions than he is to playing Danny. The absence of any kind of routine to anything from Grease 2 tonight saddened me, as I'm sure it did Carrie. Just imagine: we could've had Kara doing a jive to 'Cool Rider', or Pamela doing a rumba to 'Charades', or Widdy doing a foxtrot to 'Reproduction'. [Or a cha-cha to 'Score Tonight'! FAIL, Strictly producers. - Carrie] So many missed opportunities. We move on to James and Ola doing a rumba to 'Take My Breath Away' in their tribute to Top Gun. Surely any rumba danced to the theme of this movie should be performed by two men? I think we all know where the "vertical representation of a horizontal desire" lay in that film. (Incidentally, I'm the last person to hide my love of '80s power ballads, but even I'm slightly ashamed to admit how much I love 'Take My Breath Away'.) The third movie in the montage is Easter Parade, featuring Anton and Erin doing a...whatever the fuck they're doing to 'We're A Couple Of Swells'. An American Smooth would be my guess, but who knows with Anton's choreography these days? Then Katya and Artem arrive to tango to 'Misirlou' from Pulp Fiction. At the beginning of this montage I would've bet actual money on Katya doing a Pulp Fiction-themed dance, so I'm glad I'm on the same page as someone who works on this show, at least.

Once that's over, we have a Bruce, and a Tess, and also a red carpet for them to arrive on. A red carpet which wasn't there two seconds ago when Kara and Artem were walking off. Wow, the set decorators on this show are efficient. Daly Dresswatch: God only knows this week. I think it's a burlap sack with a slit cut down the front and a belt around her midriff. I don't really want to look at it any longer in case it actually blinds me with its ugliness, so that's all the detail you're getting. Sorry.

Bruce tells the audience to sit down; "I know you were told to do it, but sit down." Well, that rather robs the million other standing ovations we've seen on this series of their impact. In a tribute to the weather, this week it is "ice to see you, to see you ice". Oh dear. Tess reminds us that it's Movie Night, in case we've forgotten in the last thirty seconds. Time to meet our stars: Scott and Natalie as James Bond and Honey Rider, Matt and Aliona as Austin Powers and Felicity Shagwell (let's face it, Aliona's clearly more of a Heather Graham than a Liz Hurley), Kara and Artem as T-Bag and T-Shirt (didn't know they'd made that into a movie), Pamela and James as Amanda Holden and Gareth Gates (nope, can't figure out what film that is), Ann and Anton as The Human Centipede (no, not really, I'm just having fun at this point), and Gavin and Katya as The Room. And if you haven't had the pleasure of The Room before, here is all you need to know:

"Oh hi Mark."

Bruce attempts to give us an intro and falls over his words for the first of many occasions tonight. He thinks some will be like FRED AND GINGE, while others will be more "Lauren Hardy". Who's she? Is that Karen's sister? Tess says that all the couples want to deliver box office gold tonight and make it to next week's semi-final. First up are Scott and Natalie, who are dancing to the James Bond theme. Scott admits in his VT that he blanked last week, and we get another glimpse of the epically brilliant moment in which Natalie grabbed him by the neck to get him into the right place. I love Natalie. If I'm ever on this show (LIKELY), I want her as my partner. [I can't believe you've jettisoned Erin! You were going to dance with her! - Carrie] Scott reminds us that he blanked on the live EastEnders and now he's blanked live on Strictly. Yes, I can't say I anticipate a huge volume of live theatre work to flood in for Scott when the show's over. However, Scott determines to shrug it off and try his best to get things back on track. He says that every boy has wanted to be James Bond, and Natalie thinks he could be one of the best Bonds, because he's got the look, the sophistication, and he's very occasionally classy. This statement is not well supported by the footage that follows. Natalie says that she's going to push Scott harder than she's ever pushed him before, and reveals that she's going to make him get his kit off, which does seem like a bit of a transparent ploy to get the votes coming in from anywhere at this point. Scott reminds Natalie that he's nearly 40 and hairy-chested (hey, nothing wrong with that) and Gavin's on the show, so they may be fighting a battle they cannot win.

They're dancing a paso doble, which doesn't really work that brilliantly with the music they've got, such is the problem of Movie Night. If I'm honest, it's not a routine that gives Scott an awful lot to do, as Natalie has choreographed a bit of an Ola Jordan special in which Scott mainly needs to just stand in the right place while she dances around him. I can sort of understand her reluctance to give him too much to do after last week, but come on - I'm sure he can at least remember some steps. Still, as my boyfriend put it - better a routine like Natalie's which only makes the pro look good than a routine like Aliona's, which makes no one look good. I think you could perhaps have got away with a tango to this music, but as a paso doble, it's really not working. In fairness, there's a bit more movement in the second half of the routine, but it's still a bit disappointing, and I know that both Scott and Natalie are capable of better than this. And the bit at the end where she rips his shirt off - well, it's fine, but it doesn't really make a lot of sense in the context of the routine. I mean, did he get his shirt buttons snagged on the cape as he whirled it around? Has he just been gored by the bull? I haven't a clue.

There is, of course, a standing ovation, aided in part by Gethin Jones and Kelly Brook. Aw, I miss Kelly Brook. And Gethin. God, series five was awesome. Bruce welcomes the judges, saying that they have all the necessary qualities to be in films: Alesha is beautiful enough to be in romantic movies, Bruno is funny enough to be in comedies, Craig is scary enough to be in horror movies, and Len is old enough to appear in silent movies. Hilarious, yes, but if Len would like to use the rest of the series as practice for his silent movie career, I'm very supportive. Len leers at Natalie's body and cracks a "double-O SEV-UN!" joke, saying that he had passion, posture and performance, though there were a few incidents. Alesha thinks Scott gave Gavin a run for his money in the chest department, and he's brushed off last week's issues and had purpose and intent in his walks. Bruno thinks Scott has a licence to thrill, and produced beautiful Spanish lines despite the fact that the music didn't help it. Craig disagrees: he wanted more paso shaping in the arms, and a few transitions were ropey, but he thinks Scott is back and he loved the theme, the choreography and the role-reversal, declaring the entire thing "hot". Bruce tells Scott to run away quickly since Craig thinks he's hot. LOL PREDATORY GAYS!

Up in the Tess Circle...I really cannot take my eyes off Natalie's abs, sorry. They are awesome. Perhaps she could be Brooke Wyndham in Legally Blonde: The Musical when Aoife NotMaria eventually departs? [My friend Lynn and I were sitting at home watching Natalie and admiring how beautiful she is and wishing we were that gorgeous, while stuffing our faces with Doritos and champagne. Swings and roundabouts. - Carrie] Scott says that he had issues this week about the prospect of a repeat of last week's blanking, but thanks Natalie for not giving up and keeping him going. Tess drools over Scott's torso, which is nice but nothing compared to Natalie's. Note to self: do a thousand crunches. Scores: Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35. There's a snafu in which Alesha's and Bruno's scores both show up as tens onscreen (not an unfair assumption) giving Scott 37, and Tess attempts to correct this, but only corrects Alesha's score and not Bruno's, so she thinks Scott got 36. Tsk. Then she cottons on and corrects herself again, and Scott's all "you can give us 37 if you want?" He's happy with 35 as well, though. Tess makes a "Maslen, Scott Maslen" reference. I wondered how long that would take.

Ann and Anton are next with their American smooth. Their VT shows Ann rewatching her performance on the monitors, and saying she was very happy with it. We see Ann stride out of the studio all "the audience loved it, my bet is the viewers did too." Not that she's believing her own hype or anything. The ever-graceful Ann continues by snotting that the judges are not interested in what I'm doing, "they're only interested in their own clever remarks." The ironyometer nexts to me suddenly shatters at this point, and I spend the next five minutes mopping up spilled mercury and glass fragments. They'll be dancing to 'Hello Dolly', which is a song Ann likes. What she does not like, however, is wearing a headdress with pink feathers for the purposes of filming the VT. Good gravy, woman, you really need to stop being such an insufferable killjoy. Clearly she hates light entertainment just as much as she hates pregnant prisoners and homosexuals. [And women who use contraception and want the right to choose. Don't forget that. - Carrie] The VT producer asks if she might at least provide them with "a big smile". Ann snarls. Ann says that they're allowed "three perfectly legal lifts" this time, but adds that if they feel like doing four, they shall. An excellent attitude to the law from a former MP, there. Ann says she'd be delighted to make the semi-finals, and would have a little smile at the expense of the bookies, who have lost a lot of money. I suspect an admission of guilt for outlasting much better dancers is too much to ask.

It begins with Ann sat at her dressing table applying powder to her face (surely all forms of make-up are deeply immodest?) and eventually capitulating to join Anton. The first lift is actually quite nice - neither one of them is showing the strain - and the good news is that there's a lot more actual choreography in this routine. The bad news is that Ann is utterly unequal to it, and spends the whole time about a step or two behind Anton, and her posture is dreadful - I don't think she'd be nearly as unsteady on her feet if she learned to stand up straight. Perhaps this might be a time for that properly-fitting bra we've discussed previously. Oh, and they opt for just the three lifts in the end, lest they suddenly spark an outbreak of moral turpitude.

Bruce tells Ann it's a shame she had to do her American smooth with a bit of rough. Alesha congratulates Ann on having more dance content this week and keeping up with it, but points out that she's still clinging onto Anton for dear life, and her posture is terrible and she has no facial expression. "It's grim," says Ann, and Alesha agrees that it is indeed grim. Alesha finishes by saying that she saw no improvement and the honeymoon is over for her. Bruno says it was more like "hello trolley" (heh) and says that when she was dancing on her own she looked "like a Dalek in drag". There's some booing at this but Ann herself finds it at least moderately funny. Also, she has lipstick on her teeth. Craig decides to list the positives: "all the best moments for me were when your feet weren't touching the floor", and there was one chasse that was passable and one polka that he didn't mind. Len says that dancing is "moving to music - and you did move, and there was music". I believe that's at least a six on Len's official grading scale, then. He says that he doesn't want to be nasty, because Ann's given him lots of fun, "but the snow gives you lots of fun to start with, but eventually you just want it to go away." Heh. Ann tells Bruce that she's going to be dancing with Craig on the tour. "They'll all give him one," she declares. I BET THEY WILL, FNAR FNAR. Craig laughs, and Ann celebrates.

They depart for the Tess Circle, and Tess says it's more like "hello Widdy" and Ann hopes that it's not "goodbye Widdy". This is a true meeting of minds, isn't it? Tess goes back to Alesha and Bruno's scores for Scott once more, with feeling, and clarifies that the graphics were wrong and the correct score was 35. Anton suggests that he and Ann have had the wrong graphics on their scores every week. Tess asks Ann if she's improving as a dancer, and Ann says she loves the viewers, because they're very encouraging. So that's a no, then. She's also pleased that Craig was encouraging this week, "for the first time", and wonders if he'll be more encouraging if they're still here next week. Tess: "Two words: semi-final, discuss." That's three words, Tess, you numerically-challenged bint. Ann says it's up to the viewers, but she hopes so because she's looking forward to learning three dances in three days. Anton suggests "there might be a lot of familiarity between these three dances". Scores: Craig 2, Len 5, Alesha 4, Bruno 3 for a total of 14 - the same score they got last week, and a record low for the American smooth, which is a total of five low-score records that Ann has broken. Ann thinks she breaks records every week, for making Craig laugh and flying and stuff. Let's hope she'll break some kind of record for GOING AWAY this week. At the very least, the fact that their routine wasn't as intentionally comical as last week's makes me hope that fewer people will feel inspired to vote for her.

Up next are Matt and Aliona. He kind of suits the nerd glasses, actually. Matt's VT has me throwing things at the TV in fits of rage, because it shows Alesha saying she was "a little bit disappointed" at last week's routine and Matt somehow thinking that justifies him claiming that "Alesha absolutely caned me". Are you fucking serious, Baker? We also see Alesha mentioning that Matt's smile looked "forced" last week (which was nothing the other judges didn't echo, and certainly from my perspective was in no way an unjustified observation), at which Matt full-on snits that what he's doing is REALLY DIFFICULT and if his face LOOKS FORCED then it's forced FOR A REASON because he finds what he's doing REALLY CHALLENGING. (Capitals Matt Baker's own.) Which kind of unwittingly backs up Alesha's point, because if he finds what he's doing so difficult that he's pulling strained faces when he's dancing, then he probably shouldn't be trying to do something that difficult. Oh, hang on, he's not done: "I don't want to go out there and be all (singsong) 'mmm, yeah, I can be nice and relaxed'." But you are SUPPOSED to, Matt, this is the point. It's basically an internet argument at this point: "OMG it woz totally mnt 2B lyk dat, UR JUS JELASS." This week, Matt was sent to the Outer Hebrides (I used to live there! Western Isles, represent!) for Countryfile, and not at all because mainland Britain had fucking had enough of his smart-arse attitude. They practice in a little community hall for their Austin Powers-themed jive, and Matt giggles about how he's going to be awesomely cheeky for 90 seconds. Then we see them in what I assume to be Stornoway airport, looking at all the airports that are closed. So while they wait, they crack some jokes about the show with fellow passengers, and presumably Matt whinges that Alesha is just a JEALOUS BITCH who DOESN'T UNDERSTAND HIS ARTISTRY to anyone who'll listen until the other passengers all decide to take their chances with swimming across The Minch to the mainland.

So, they're jiving to 'Soul Bossa Nova', with Matt prancing about on top of the judges' desk before backflipping (sigh) onto the dancefloor and doing some Austin Powers impressions. Then there's about thirty seconds of basic jive steps repeated over and over again, with a few flicks but no discernible kicks, and then a stop for some arm-dancing. Then there's another spot of basic jive steps with some kicks added into the flicks this time, and then a bit of random flailing. Seriously, what the fuck is this? I'm starting to wonder if Aliona thinks they've basically got the victory all sewn up at this point so they don't really need to put any effort in any more. I'm appalled. About a third of this routine, at most, is a jive. The rest is just fuckery.

Bruce thanks the fabulous singers and the wonderful orchestra (this is getting later every week - pretty soon they'll have to interrupt Casualty to do it) and turns to Bruno for feedback. Bruno calls it "groovy baby" and is impressed that they managed to fit in some jive amid all the character comedy. He actually takes this to be a good thing. Craig loved the "back summie" (lol) and the characterisation and the precision, but he thought Matt lost time on the kick section. Len, remaining consistent with his reaction to Kara's American Smooth, wants to know how he's supposed to judge it when there's no jive, wait, actually he likes it. You suck, Len Goodman. He thought the feeling and the content of the dance were great. He gets my hopes up for a second with the comment starting "a little bit light..." which I was hoping would end "...on any fucking jive content" but actually finishes "...on your feet." BOO. Matt, incidentally, is sweating like a wrong'un. Must be all that polyester. Alesha is not permitted to speak, lest she ABSOLUTELY CANE HIM again, relentless bloodthirsty creature that she is.

Tess tells Matt that he's got his mojo working and congratulates him on a first for somersaulting backwards off the judges' desk. Let's hope it's a Strictly last as well as a Strictly first. Tess asks him who's the Dr Evil of the competition. Matt resists the urge to say "THAT EVIL BITCH ALESHA WHO DOESN'T APPRECIATE MY GENIUS", and instead says Anton, "because he's the force behind...y'know." Heh. I'll take any shout-out to Widdy's inherent evilness, even if it comes from Matt Baker. Scores: Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35.

Pamela and James are next. Bruce opens with a joke about BILLY CONNOLLY, TO WHOM SHE IS MARRIED. Pamela recalls in the VT that their charleston was risky, and that her daughters were shocked by the moves she was doing. Her daughters do indeed confirmed that they thought they might have to run on and catch her or something. Pamela's proud to be doing it for the older generation. James takes his shirt off, and they recreate the pottery scene from Ghost. I am disappointed that Pamela doesn't sculpt the clay into a giant dildo. Perhaps she did, and it was edited out for compliance reasons. It feels like such a missed opportunity otherwise. They have a mini party in rehearsals for Pamela's 61st birthday with champers and cake, and Pamela cracks the old "you're only as old as the man you feel" joke, to remind us why she retired from comedy.

They're dancing the Viennese waltz to 'Unchained Melody', and it's a lovely routine, sensitively executed (i.e. Pamela actually manages to rein in the Giant Ham Faces for once) and it actually gives me shivers which aren't entirely related to the fact that it's -2 outside. Bruce attempts to speak to them afterwards but has been rendered a spluttering mess of incoherence by their routine (/old age) that he has to turn to the judges. Craig calls it graceful, elegant, stylish, tasteful, full of emotion and gorgeous. Len thinks he'll see Pamela in the semi-final next week. Alesha wishes Pamela happy birthday ("happy 61st", echoes James, clearly finding the whole thing hilarious and not-at-all tedious by this point) and tells her that these are the moments she looks forward to on the show: the perfect song, the perfect dress, and the perfect choreography, perfectly danced. Bruno is not called upon. Why is Len never the silent judge?

Up in the Tess Circle, Tess asks Pamela what she would've said if someone had said to her a year ago that she'd be dancing in front of 13 million people on her birthday. Pamela: "I would've said 'you are psychotic, I'm going to lock you up'." That is about the level of psychological insight I expect from Dr Pamela, yes. Scores: tens all round for a perfect 40. Alesha actually shouts "happy birthday!" as she wheels out her 10 paddle - like, don't make people think you start handing those out as birthday presents, Alesha, you're in enough trouble as it is after what you gave Scott last week. Pamela says this was already the best birthday ever just being there, and thanks James so much for making it happen. James rubs his ear and says "sorry?", because he's a fucking tool who doesn't know when to stop.

Back to Bruce, who mentions that this is the first time he's seen a standing ovation for four tens. Good God, the SCORES are getting standing ovations now? Have the chairs been removed in the BBC cutbacks? This is just getting silly. Gavin and Katya are on next, and their VT reminds us that their jive was not well-received last week. Gavin says that normally he'd take that from the judges, but he really didn't think their dance was that bad. He thought they'd be going home last week, but since they've made it this far, he thinks it's time to up the ante. He and Katya are being the Blues Brothers this week, and Katya is very proud of Gavin for doing well at ballroom. Gavin likens the process to the tale of The Tortoise And The Hare - some peaked too early, but now he's going to unleash his SUPER TORTOISE POWERS and make it through to the semi-final. "Game on," he declares. [And pulls a really quite fearsome game face. GO GAVIN. - Carrie]

They're dancing a foxtrot to 'Minnie The Moocher', which begins with Katya disrobing Gavin as much as can be legitimately allowed for a ballroom routine. Gavin's pulling a bit of a concentratey hamster face, but the dancing is not too shabby. It's not the most exciting routine ever because, hello, foxtrot, but there is a mad uptempo bit in the middle which is quite fun before they get back to the regularly scheduled foxtrot business.

Len says he doesn't want Gavin to kiss him (don't be ridiculous, Len, he's a SPORTSMAN, of course you want him to kiss you, and probably a bit more besides) but that was his best dance. Alesha thinks they're a sexy hot couple tonight, and Gavin's back doing what he does best and looking more like a dancer. Bruno says that he put a lot of work into this routine and it showed. Clearly we're short on time at this point.

Up in the Tess Circle, Katya gives Gavin a little solo burst of applause and Tess tells Gavin that he's the "self-proclaimed underdog" now. Gavin: "I wish I didn't have that tag, but I'll take it, I suppose." So is he self-proclaimed or not? Because if he is...he probably shouldn't be complaining about that. He wants to make it to the semi-finals. "I don't want to be an underdog, I want to be the favourite, but that's not the case yet." Heh, I love his dry sense of humour - especially the inclusion of that 'yet' on the end there. Scores: Craig 7, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 8 for a total of 33 - Gavin's joint-highest score of the contest.

Our final couple of the evening is Kara and Artem. Artem appears to have had all of his facial hair, including his eyebrows, drawn on with a felt tip. It reminds me of this (and please, someone tell me I'm not the only person who remembers Breakfast Serials). Kara admits in her VT that she blanked on Saturday night, though I think we can all agree that she covered it rather more smoothly than Scott did. She says that she thought they were goners (to be honest, I was worried about that too) and was thus elated to hear they were safe. Kara says they can't go out again not knowing what they're doing, so they have to start training again right away. They're dancing a tango to 'El Tango De Roxanne' from Moulin Rouge!, which is one of her favourite films. They pose briefly as Christian and Satine. Kara says that she's been doing lots of interviews about Artem, and Artem says that there are lots of rumours about whether they're together like that, and that it's one thing to go at home and be with the person you love and another thing to go into work, and it's complicated if you mix them together. "I'm waiting for Strictly to be over," he explains. Kara clarifies for the less astute viewers in the audience that Artem has hinted he might "take me out for a bite" (dirty!) once the show's over. Artem concludes the VT by saying "yes, I'm confirming the rumours." Phew! I'm so glad they didn't waste any of that VT time by talking about anything silly or irrelevant like dancing.

There's a lot of dancing around a chair at the beginning, including Kara straddling it in various ways and showing how very flexible she is, and a lovely bit where she climbs on top and rides the top of the chair's back down to the ground before kicking it away behind her. Hilariously, it's nowhere to be seen a few seconds later, so I bet they had a very swift production assistant on hand to remove that while the cameras were briefly pointing elsewhere. I'm not really sure what's up with Kara's "Audrey Hepburn as a vampire" make-up and hair here, but it's a wonderful tango - sharp, passionate, brutal. Kara's matching Artem every step of the way, and I said on Twitter during the first showing that I felt like my heart stopped during this dance - and the effect wasn't lessened the second time around.

Alesha tells Kara that she's absolutely blown away, and that was the best tango she's ever seen on Strictly Come Dancing. Bruno screams "SPECTACULAR SPECTACULAR!" and calls it "a tango full of theatrical magic" before launching himself at Alesha again, sending her flying into Len. I think Alesha's going to need danger money if they continue to seat her next to him. Craig calls it "fantasmagorical". Len thinks Kara's heel leads were so strong that she occasionally went too far with them, and her close promenades involved a stomp a few too many times for his personal preference, but he thought it was great.

Scott grabs Kara to say "well done" as they enter the Tess Circle, and Tess asks her what it was like to dance a song from her favourite movie with her favourite man. Kara says she's a very lucky girl. Tess clucks that they're "so cute!" and starts planning what she'll wear to the wedding. Scores: Craig 9, Len 9 (boos from the audience to both of these scores), Alesha 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 38.

Leaderboard: Pamela and James at the top with full marks, Kara below them, Scott and Matt tied for third place, Gavin just below them, and Ann a full 19 points below him at the bottom, but separated by only one point in the eventual allocation. I really think they need to adopt the percentage-based system they use on Dancing With The Stars.

Quick recap: Scott and Natalie on Her Majesty's secret service, Ann and Anton's American lumpy, Matt and Aliona's quasi-jive, Pamela and James contacting the other side, Gavin and Katya possibly rescuing themselves from being told to foxtrot oscar, and Kara and Artem trying to beat the consumption.

That's it for the performances - someone's missing out on a semi-final place, but who will it be?

Results: 5th December 2010

The show starts about 10 seconds too soon, so the BBC One continuity announcer talks over the beginning of the "last night on..." recap. Oops! Tess informs us that the box office receipts have now been counted - so who turned out to be an absolute bomb? Time to find out. Cue special Movie Night titles!

We open with a Dance Troupe number. Yay, Dance Troupe! They're re-enacting Mamma Mia: The Movie, though I think they missed a trick by not casting Ian as Meryl Streep. 'Mamma Mia' segues onto 'Lay All Your Love On Me', which appears to be a paso doble. After that, we go into 'Take A Chance On Me', though sadly with no signs of Julie Walters, and this seems to be a samba. I think this is the most the dance troupe have had to do all series. I still haven't quite worked out which of the boys is Colin Firth in this scenario. Tess tells us that the routine was choreographed by Ian. Ah - perhaps that gives us our answer.

Time to meet the judges, from right to left: The Italian Job, Dreamgirl, Brassed Off and The Grinch. Not reaching at all there, then. Craig loved Movie Night because it gave everyone a chance to express themselves and get creative. Pamela stood out for him as the best of the night, which would make sense, since she got the top score.

Over to Claudia, who teases an upcoming waltz from Anton and Erin and a performance from the Manic Street Preachers, but before all that, we must recap. Len thinks it was an evening never to be forgotten, and Bruno thinks everyone improved. Natalie enjoyed getting Scott's tits out. Len reminds us that Ann is a record-breaker, and Alesha salutes her, perhaps a touch sarcastically. The judges agree that Matt made a fantastic Austin Powers - Bruno and Alesha wanted to give him tens, but he lost timing. Matt says that he wanted to nail it, but ended up doing a bit of DIY instead. Not sure that metaphor entirely works. Everyone loved Pamela, hence all the tens, and Pamela wonders backstage if she's dreaming, saying it's the best birthday ever. Alesha's proud of Gavin for doing so well, and Len thinks "the more you sweat, the better you get". I feel that comment should've been aimed at Matt. Alesha wishes she had a 20 paddle for Kara. Len thinks Kara is the one to beat, even though Pamela got four tens. Thanks for that, Len. Kara thinks it doesn't get better than that. The judges agree that Pamela and Kara were the best of the night. Len thinks we've never had so many great dancers getting this close to the final. Alesha thinks this could be the best final EVARZ.

Time for our first batch of results with Tess. The first couple through to the semi-final is Gavin and Katya. Katya's face of surprise is almost Kensit-level. They're joined by Kara and Artem, and Artem celebrates by dry-humping Kara. The first couple in the bottom two and in danger of leaving is Scott and Natalie. And those of you who saw Natalie Lowe's ill-advised spoiler tweet knows that Scott and Natalie aren't going home tonight, so whoever ends up in the bottom two with them is DUNZO.

Bruno thinks this is a ridiculous joke, because Scott is a potential winner, and he declares it "unfair". Tess turns to Alesha and asks if the male celebs are running out of steam. Alesha says no, the boys were on fire, but who's on top changes from week to week, which should make an interesting final.

Claudia's with the two safe couples, but we don't get to talk to them yet, as first we have Anton and Erin with their FRED AND GINGE number to 'Moon River'. Erin looks lovely in this, if I may say so. It's a really lovely waltz, although after four years of recapping, I'm kind of running out of things to say about pro waltzes. It's beautiful, then it's over. Like so many things in life. Let's move on. [Philosophical, Perkins. - Carrie]

After that, we're back up with Claudia and the safe couples. Claudia reminds Gavin that he was in the bottom two last week, and Gavin says he thought he was going home tonight, so he's feeling a bit emotional about being in the semi-finals. Katya says that it's amazing to be in the company of such incredible dancers and to get so far. They have to do three dances next week, which Gavin admits he can't get his head round now. Kara giggles that she's emotional now too, and Claudia asks them about Scott. Kara says that he and Natalie are incredible and they can't lose them.

Back to Tess to find out who will be joining Scott and Natalie in the bottom two. The next couple definitely through to the semi-final is Pamela and James. So that leaves Matt and Aliona and Ann and Anton fighting it out for the last safe spot, and the couple in the bottom two is...Ann and Anton. Matt and Aliona are through, and WIDDY'S GOING HOME! HOORAY!

Tess asks Craig about Ann and Anton, and he says that the public have finally come to their senses, and he trusts that they will choose the best dancer in the end. Len's asked about next week, and he says that he can't wait because as well as their usual dances they'll have to do a swingathon - five couples on the floor dancing together, being eliminated one at a time. Not only that, but it's a double-elimination next week, as anyone who's read the rules on the BBC website has known for ages.

Claudia's with the bottom two. Ann says that there's no way she'll beat Scott and Natalie, but it's been a tremendous ten weeks, and thanks the viewers for keeping her in. Claudia turns to Scott and Natalie, and Scott says he's not surprised to be in the bottom two as they've been flagging for a bit and the standard keeps getting higher. Claudia asks Ann what she will do next week if she survives, and Ann says they can expect brilliance from Anton and she'll tag along. Scott and Natalie have a charleston and an Argentine Tango next week if they get through, Scott tells us.

After that: Manic Street Preachers! With their new single 'Some Kind Of Nothingness'! It is a new single by the Manic Street Preachers! I don't really have any strongly-formed opinions on it, to be honest. There's a nice choral bit near the end. And there's a string section. It's nice, if you like that sort of thing.

Time for the abbreviated "I don't want to go home" VTs. Scott thinks that to fall at the last hurdle would feel like such a waste of time, so he's working towards the semi-finals. Ann is looking forward to the semi-finals, but never anticipated to get that far, so has had a jolly good time, whatever happens.

Time to see who's going home. Scott gave Bruno a licence to kill, while Len said Ann was like the snow - fun at the start, but you're glad when it's gone. "Bye!" waves Ann. The couple leaving is...Ann and Anton! Natalie snogs the face off Anton, for some reason. Tess asks Ann how she feels to be leaving, and Ann says they've had a good time, and she always knew this day would come eventually. She's had fun learning the dances, and will miss going into training on Monday, but she's had the time of her life, and Anton has been brilliant. (Except at the Latin.) Anton says he's had an incredible time and is slightly lost for words when trying to think of how to describe Ann. I know how he feels.

Ann and Anton have their final dance, and there are even a few actual dance steps in it. See, she did learn something after all! The others descend to say goodbye, and Kara hugs Ann like you'd hug your granny. Everyone has to practically bend double to say goodbye to her, which is quite amusing. That's it! We'll be back for a Widdy-free Strictly on Friday, continuing on Saturday. See you next week!