Sunday, 31 October 2010

Still not as terrifying as Tess's wardrobe

Top 11: 30th October 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Amazing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results: 31st October 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 25 October 2010

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

- Len has always wanted to kiss a man with a beard to see if it feels prickly.
- Claudia thinks Alesha's laugh sounds like "something's being killed".
- Ann wants to play the bull in the paso doble.
- If Artem were a kitchen utensil, he'd be a coffee maker.
- If Claudia were to dance with a prop, she'd want it to be a live chicken.
- Claudia has got a worm at home.
- There should be no hip action whatsoever in a paso doble.
- Felicity would like to invent a machine to blow up all the weaponry in the world.
- Matt asked for a unicycle for Christmas when he was a young boy.
- Patsy brings a pillow to rehearsals for catnaps.
- Lots of people refuse to wear green because it's unlucky.
- The very idea of pleather makes Claudia feel sick. A bit like Quorn.
- Flavia is beating Jimi. With a cane.
- Tina eats a lot of bananas.
- Scott has created a character called Farquhar for dance purposes.
- Jennie Bond likes a bit of sparkling wine while she watches the show.
- The first single Craig ever bought was 'The Monster Mash'.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Harness your potential

Top 12: 23rd October 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results: 24th October 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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