Thursday, 29 December 2011

A Charlie Brooks Christmas

Christmas Special 2011: 25th December 2011

Merry Christmas, everybody! Of course, by the time we've got around to recapping this and you've got around to reading it, Christmas is but a distant memory for all of us (though if your family is anything like mine, you'll barely be even a third of the way into all of the food you bought to sustain you through the festive season). Anyway, there was Christmas, and therefore it follows that there was a Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special, featuring five celebrities who were too scared to face a full series and get voted out by the public simply don't have the time to commit to a full series of the show because of their jam-packed schedules. In keeping with Christmas tradition, I was exiled into the other room to watch Doctor Who by myself (and as much as I prefer Steven Moffat's showrunning to that of Russell T. Davies, can we just agree that that's enough of the "people who have children are better than everyone else" storylines now? Because there have been A LOT recently, though apparently not enough for any of the tabloids to run an outraged story about "MOFFAT'S SICK PRO-PARENT AGENDA" the way they did when Russell T Davies occasionally dared to acknowledge the existence of gay people), but the Strictly special marked the point at which I was welcomed back into the living room for Family Viewing, which is surely what Christmas is all about. So, shall we begin?

There's no cold open, so we just go straight into the titles - which feature snowmen, so I suppose you could argue it's still a cold open of sorts. The theme tune has its traditional Christmas remix, reminiscent of 'Wonderful Christmastime', which as I suggested in my recap of last year's special, is THE WORST CHRISTMAS SONG IN THE HISTORY OF FOREVER. Anyway, there are just snowmen (and snowladies) [snowwomen - Resident Feminist Carrie] dancing in the titles, perhaps because it costs too much to make a special version of the titles featuring these celebrities only to use it once. Either that, or the identity of the competitors is supposed to be some sort of "surprise", even though there were press releases about them months ago (hell, I even got a press release telling me who'd won about a week before Christmas). Still, the titles are brief, which means the exposure to the Worst Christmas Song Ever is minimal, and that's always good.

In order to get the Christmas special off to the absolute worst start possible, the very first face we see is Russell Grant's. Did anyone watch Gordon Ramsay's Christmas Cookalong Live on Christmas Day? Since Russell's desperation for attention is so very extensive, he appeared on that and made rather a nuisance of himself, though to be honest I was more distracted by Gordon's complete unsuitability for hosting a live television show, considering his lack of ability to fill those awkward pauses when the cut to Max Beesley's kitchen didn't quite happen right away. (My favourite bit of the whole thing was when Gordon asked Max "what's the biggest turkey you've ever made?" and I shouted "Glitter!" at the television.) Anyway, Russell's presence here is brief (he'll be back, though, so don't get too comfortable) and we pass by him and into the Strictly Christmas House, where our Christmas pros (Ian, Erin, Anton, Katya and Vincent) are wearing festive jumpers and surrounded by some oversized novelty crackers. The band strike up with 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday' (the irony of which I'm sure was not lost on them when they recorded this at the end of November) and the pros perform a jive. That's right: a professional jive routine, featuring Anton. He's even at the front for a sizeable part of the routine, which was a brave move on the choreographer's part. The men all dance together for a bit, because it's Christmas and they've all had a few drinks (not as many as Alesha though, I suspect). After a bit more business, it's time to pull open those crackers and see who's inside! Erin and Vincent pull the cracker on stage right and land themselves Barry McGuigan and Charlie "Janine" Brooks (Len's look of fake-surprise in the background is a thing of hammy beauty), Ian and Katya pull the cracker on stage left and are rewarded with Debra Stephenson and Simon FromBlue, and then Ian gives Anton a hand to pull the big cracker upstage, from which Su Pollard emerges. I love that Su Pollard got a cracker all to herself. I hope she had that written into her contract.

Finally, after all that, we have a Bruce, and we have a Tess. Daly Festive Dresswatch: feathers all around her torso at the top of a sort of a taupe-hued dress. I've seen worse, I suppose. Bruce fumbles his way through the opening lines of 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town' just so he can get to "trying to find out who's nice to see you, to see you [etc]". I'm not really sure it was worth the effort it took to get to that point, really. Bruce promises us that all of the stars of the 2011 series will be returning to the floor later (at this, there's a brilliant cut to Chelsee, Robbie, Harry, Jason and Holly all sitting together, with Chelsee's expression reading as one of surprise. Was she not briefed on this?) and Tess tells us that Shakin' Stevens will be performing later with "a golden Russell Grant-shaped surprise". The only thing that would surprise me about terminal oversharer Russell Grant would be if he kept his damn mouth shut and left this series alone.

After this, it's time to meet the stars of our festive show: actress and impressionist Debra Stephenson and her partner Ian Waite, singer Simon FromBlue and his partner Katya Virshilas, EastEnders' Charlie Brooks and her partner Vincent Simone, boxing legend Barry McGuigan and his partner Erin Boag, and finally, actress and comedian Su Pollard and her partner, Anton Du Beke. Su slips down the stairs a little bit. Oh, Su.

Bruce turns to the judges, and what is this? There's an empty seat next to Len! Surely this can't be an excuse for Craig Revel-Horwood to make a campy pantomime entrance? OH YES IT CAN! Oh no it can't! OH YES IT CAN! Oh no it ca--oh, actually it can. Craig's feet appear in the chimney breast, with a voiceover of "help! Help, I'm stuck! It's a DISAHHHSTUH!" booming through the studio. Craig finally emerges...dressed as The Grinch. Cue an awful lot of children explaining that gag to their elderly relatives. Craig vamps "I've come, darling, to steal Christmas!" and hoofs his way downstage. The audience boo him (I join in the booing, but I choose to direct my booing at Len and/or Tess's stylist) and Craig makes his way to his seat, loving every melodramatic moment.

Tess reminds us that there is no phone in because this was all recorded a month ago, so the studio audience will be deciding who wins tonight. I hope the entire Su Pollard Fan Club was bussed in especially for this. Simon and Katya are up first, and Duncan FromBlue and Antony FromBlue are in the audience to support him. Not Lee Ryan, though, who is presumably off somewhere saving the elephants. Apparently Antony was also on Celebrity Mastermind over Christmas, so the boys from Blue are clearly trying to "do a McFly" over the festive season. His VT reminds us of the heydays of Blue (but not so much the heyday of Top Of The Pops, since the clip they show features Richard Blackwood on hosting duties). Seeing this reminds me that he was the only member of Blue who managed a successful solo singing career - my sister, who was watching the show with me, even remembered that she had one of his albums somewhere. Then of course this year they reformed and did Eurovision, and now he's doing Strictly, which Simon lies will be the more nerve-wracking of the two. He unwraps Katya's Festive Package (tee hee) and we see their training footage, which involves Katya ordering him about a lot. Simon says that he likes being told what to do by a woman, and Katya cackles. Simon claims that his mother "gave birth to a mover" and offers us a little demonstration, which proves short-lived, as Katya advises him "let's not do that". Katya tells us that the Christmas special is about having fun, and Simon adds "AND WINNING!" I think, given the partners Katya's been given since she came on the show, she's perhaps forgotten that it's possible to actually win the competition. (RINGER FOR KATYA IN 2012 PLZ.) Simon has prepared a smile for victory and a smile for defeat, he tells us, so he's covered either way. Katya continues to cackle at everything he says. I think she's had a bit of festive spirit from Alesha's drinks cupboard. [I think she just fancies Simon FromBlue. He's a very magnetic kind of man. Am I allowed to tell my anecdote about when I interviewed him? - Carrie]

They're dancing a cha cha cha to 'Merry Xmas Everybody', and Katya's wearing an apron, an impossibly tiny dress, and carrying a tray of canapes. I'd complain about the inherent sexism of the staging here, but I see that Katya's choreographed in a bit where she takes a hefty swig out of a champagne glass, so clearly she's cast herself as a housewife who is so frustrated at being suppressed by the patriarchy that she's been driven to alcoholism. After that, Simon bursts through the door and does a few moves, all of which are rather excessively overdanced, so I think the adrenaline's got to him a little bit. There's a bit shortly after that where Simon's seemingly supposed to rip Katya's apron off, but this doesn't quite go to plan so Katya pulls it off herself. Either that, or this was all exactly how it was supposed to play out and this is a further statement of Katya's feminist treaty that she don't need no stinkin' man to help her remove the oppressive shackles that society places on women. From there, we move into the cha cha cha proper, and Simon seems pretty good, though he's not been given much to do that's especially difficult. He moves well, though, and he has some nice lines. The routine ends with Simon returning to sit at the table, and Katya sitting on his lap, no doubt symbolising women's need to rise above men in society's hierarchy. I think.

Bruce welcomes the fabulous singers Dave Arch, and his wonderful orchestra, and then we go to the judges. Craig, sadly, has now removed all of the make-up - I was kind of hoping he'd do the whole thing in character as the Grinch. Then again, I was also hoping that Debra Stephenson would do the whole thing in character as Claudia Winkleman (the only impression on that show of hers that's even remotely close to the person it's supposed to resemble), and I was disappointed on that score as well. Anyway, festive judges joke? Craig is an Australian w(h)ine, Len is a trifle - bitter, fruity and soaked in sherry, Alesha is "a nice bit of icing on a cake" (Alesha looks uncertain as to whether this is a compliment or not, but perhaps that's because she's also thinking about how she's at least twice as soaked in sherry as Len is), and Bruno is nuts and crackers. Bruce also cracks the Bruno is "the man who put mince into mince pies" (LOLGAY) and Bruno finds this hilarious, presumably because he's been breathing in all those fumes emanating from Alesha ever since she sat down and is now three sheets to the wind.

Len tells Simon that his dance was crisp like fresh snow, sharp like the air on Christmas morning, and hot like a mulled wine, and "tutti frutti what a booty!" Yeesh. Bruce tells Simon "that's with you for life now!", and I think I speak for everyone watching when I say it's not just Simon who's had that image seared onto their brain forever. Alesha says it was strong, animalistic (?) and totally in control. She thinks it was a confident performance, and Simon should be proud. Bruno tells Simon that he turned up the heat, and he had so much hot toddy, he feels dizzy. Craig calls it "a powerhouse of strength", then confusing me some what by calling it "Amazonian". As in "a warrior woman"? Maybe that was directed at Katya, and this was Craig's subtle way of telling her that he sympathised with and approved of her feminist subtext.

They make their way up to the Tess Circle, and Simon says it was amazing, and says it's all down to Katya for whipping him into shape. Tess asks if his bandmates enjoyed it, and Simon says that he thinks Duncan and Antony were the loudest audience members, though his girlfriend was also getting very high-pitched. Either that, or Lee Ryan did manage to make it after all. Scores: Craig 9, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 36.

Our next couple are Debra and Ian. Bruce enthuses about how good Debra is on The Impressions Show, singling out Debra's impression of Claudia and adding "and her Fiona Bruce is amazing". All right, Bruce, there's no need to lower the tone. In her VT, we're reminded that Debra was in Bad Girls and Coronation Street, but first came to the nation's attention on Opportunity Knocks at the age of 14 (looking significantly older, or is that just me?). She says that The Impressions Show is the show she dreamed of doing when she was a kid (personally, I'd have aspired to doing something funnier with a more imaginative title) and that people always ask her to do her Davina McCall impression for them. Then we see some clips of her Tess Daly impression, which is...not great, and Debra says that after studying clips of Tess to impersonate her, it's going to be quite strange to be on the show. She and Ian will be doing an American smooth, and over rehearsal footage, she explains that it needs to look seamless and flawless, which is a struggle. All the spinning is making her nauseous, it seems. She says that she would like to win - for Ian, as a Christmas gift. I hate it when people do that - "oh, me, I don't care about winning at all, I'd just like to reward my professional partner who has laboured for so long and been unrewarded." It's such bollocks, and kind of offensive and patronising to boot. She says that she should be okay, "if I can keep my turkey down". Oh, don't worry, Debra, just let us all see your turkey - it's never done Ola any harm.

They're dancing to 'Baby It's Cold Outside', complete with some inaccurate lip-synching. The routine's quite nice in choreography terms, and being delivered pretty well, but I'd like them to be a bit closer together. It's a minor quibble, but having a massive gap between couples in ballroom always irks me. Still, the lifts are good, and Debra makes it the whole way through without vomiting, so she gets a thumbs-up from me.

Alesha tells Debra she looks gorgeous, with lovely lines, nice turns and good control. She thinks Debra looked absolutely at ease with the American smooth. Bruno calls it "light, sparkling, elegant, full of flavour - a treat for the eyes and delicious to savour". Craig thought she had "nasty flat thumbs" and points out the "gapping you could drive a sleigh through", but he loved the story, the lines and the lifts. Len thinks it was light and fluffy like a fairy on top of the tree, and that she warmed him up. Bruce, padding his part out as usual, tells Debra it was a fantastic impression of Cyd Charisse.

Up in the Tess Circle, Tess asks how many hours of training went into that - and "eight" is the answer. Suddenly I'm a lot more impressed with the performance if that's all the rehearsal time they had. Debra says she's loved every minute of the experience. Scores: Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 37. Debra is flabbergasted. Tess does her next link and throws to "Claudia", and Debra does her impression, which I still find remarkably accurate, though judging from Twitter at the time this went out, an awful lot of people disagree with me.

Our third couple are Barry and Erin. Barry recounts his various boxing-related achievements, including winning BBC Sports Personality Of The Year. I wonder if there were any women nominated that time? He wonders what his "boxing friends" will think of him, and answers his own question: "Probably 'what an eejit'." Given that one of the friends pictured was Joe Calzaghe, I'd suggest Barry's unlikely to turn in the worst performance ever given on this show by one of his boxing chums. He unwraps an Erin for Christmas and explains that they're doing the quickstep, which leaves him wondering if a small, square man can be elegant. Erin tells us that she won't be wearing the high heels this year, Barry will. They cackle, because short men are funny. [Not as funny as gays though. - Carrie] Barry says that he's very much looking forward to the experience, and just wants to get it right.

The routine begins with Len ringing a boxing bell (a shameless attempt to get bonus points by not only reminding Len that Barry is a SPORTSMAN but giving Len the chance to do something SPORT-RELATED), and Barry kissing Erin under the mistletoe. They're dancing to 'Jingle Bells', and for a quickstep, it's not particularly quick, but Barry's footwork seems surprisingly good. The kicks section in the middle is less impressive, and Erin's chucked in a couple of lifts, which I assume are illegal even at Christmas, but hey, it's Erin. Would you want to be the one to remind her she's not supposed to do that? I wouldn't. It all goes a bit wrong at the end, but it's a credible enough effort.

Bruno tells Barry that he had more spirit than a well-stocked drinks cabinet, and he thought it was a fantastic quickstep. Craig points out the unfortunate loss of balance near the beginning and Barry's general need for better hand-shaping, adding that the end position left a lot to be desired, but he admired the posture, the rhythm and the charleston section in the middle. Len calls it a knockout, and suggests that Barry should have danced tomorrow because it is BOXING DAY, and makes a "snow, snow, thick thick snow" gag. Alesha tells Barry it was a routine full of content, and compliments his posture and his timing.

In the Tess Circle, Tess invites Barry to punch Craig, because this is apparently what we do now, and Barry tells her it's a different kind of dancing to what he's used to, because "I normally have somebody chasing me". Tess asks if he fancies lifting the trophy, and Barry says that he's done his best, and hopes for a bit of luck. Scores: Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha 10, Bruno 9 for a total of 36.

Next are Su and Anton. Su's VT explains that she is a FLAWLESS GODDESS who has entertained the nation for decades, with Su explaining that she's "probably best known for a situation comedy called Hi-De-Hi!", adding "I've also had a singing career, which I'm very pleased about." Heh. Sadly, the clip shown is from 'Starting Together' and not THIS MASTERPIECE. From there, Su moves on to talking about her style, and how she likes to believe she was Lady Gaga's "mentor". She thinks she's lively and camp enough to work on Strictly, and aims to give us "90 seconds of fabulousness". Only 90? Su pulls a party popper and Anton appears, and Anton tells us that she epitomises the elegant sophistication of the foxtrot. Su says that it's unusual for her "to be dancing on Christmas Day and not on a table". She thinks that even if they don't lift the glitterball, she'll have lifted her spirits just by getting through it.

The band plays 'White Christmas' and Anton arrives, shaking snow off his overcoat. Su arrives in significantly more style - on a sleigh drawn by Pasha and Artem, both wearing novelty antlers and gazing at her adoringly, as well they might. Anton lifts Su out of the sleigh and removes her long white coat to reveal a green, Christmas tree-style dress. The dancing itself is rather stilted, and you can clearly see Anton guiding her through it. I'm disappointed that there wasn't more comedy in the routine, but I suppose even if there had been, it would have been Anton-brand rather than Su-brand, so perhaps that's for the best in the long run.

Anton carries Su over to Bruce, declaring her "a Christmas gift", and Bruce tells Su that before the judges get to say anything, she's his favourite. They decide to start with Craig, with Bruce wondering if that's such a good idea. Su delights a large percentage of the watching gays by lapsing into Polari and saying worriedly "look at the eek, dear." (That means "face", for all the heterosexuals reading this.) Craig says that it lacked elegance, grace, style, fluidity, and Su went off on the wrong foot. Su: "I heard you say that! 'Wrong foot!' So that put me off immediately, I couldn't get on the right foot then!" Everyone starts laughing, and Su makes a run for Craig, who leaps out of his chair and brandishes it at her to keep her at bay. In these 15 seconds, Su's already made me laugh more than Russell Grant did in an entire series. Len tells Su she came out like the Snow Queen, white and gorgeous, and then she metamorphosed into a Christmas tree, with Anton guiding her around the floor like Rudolph. He thought it was a sheer delight. Alesha says she wants to give Su an extra point just for attacking Craig - so that'll be 11, then? Alesha says that she's used to the comedy element with Su, and she thought she was elegant and lovely, "like a lovely Christmas tree". Bruno tells Su she has "such range", and admires her body contact with Anton, pointing out that she was practically glued to Anton. Su tells us that Anton has been "ever so good", drumming the mantra of "long and slow" into her. She attempts to demonstrate, but Anton mutters "it's a bit late now, love." Bruce instructs Anton to "take her up the stairs" and Su is all "OOH MATRON!" about it, making me love her even more.

In the Tess Circle, Tess informs Su that she provided "more than 90 seconds of fabulousness". Su explains that Anton has been so good, and she didn't want to let him down. Anton cuts Tess off to tell him that Su was great, and he's had such a ball training with her. Tess taps him on the arm and without missing a beat, Anton says "you want me to stop speaking? Good luck." Heh. Tess says that Su didn't let us down on the costume front, and mispronounces Lady Gaga's name in the process. Scores: Craig 6, Len 9, Alesha 7 ("Sorry Su! Can I change my mind?"), Bruno 8 for a total of 30.

Time for our last couple of the evening, Charlie and Vincent. Tess's voiceover informs us that Charlie has won "countless awards" for playing Evil Janine in EastEnders, and the lovely VT department have illustrated this by showing her clutching her Inside Soap award in 2009. I would just like to say, without bias of any kind, that the Inside Soap Awards are the best awards of them all. Charlie explains that people either love to hate Janine, or they just hate her. She's excited about doing Strictly, because it'll be nice for her nan and granddad and her little girl to see her being happy on Christmas Day, rather than trying to kill someone. I suppose depending on your personality, you could argue that those two don't necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. She pulls a cracker and out pops Vincent (presumably he was the only pro small enough to fit in one), and Vincent makes his obligatory comments about the SCREEN-MELTING CHEMISTRY that the two of them share. Charlie wins me over by openly laughing in response to this. Vincent explains their jive contains an illegal lift, and Charlie wonders if they shouldn't be playing by the rules, because she's a good girl in real life, not like that nasty Janine. Vincent retorts that rules are made to be broken, and Charlie wins the argument by reminding him he's never won. They consider that the people watching them will have eaten a lot of food, and hope to inspire them to get up and move on Christmas Day. I can't speak for anyone else, but I doubt even an apocalypse could inspire me to move before Boxing Day.

Vincent is dressed as Santa, handing out presents, before opening his sack (ooer) to reveal Charlie as a sexy Mrs Claus, and they dance to 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town'. It's easily, to my mind, the most accomplished performance of the evening - Charlie copes well with some very quick choreography and her leg placement is impressive. Like all of tonight's routines, there's a section where it gets a bit sticky and wrong-looking (in this case, the middle) but by and large the dance is energetically performed and very convincing.

Len tells Charlie that she delivered a terrific jive, and Alesha compliments her on her energy, bounce and personality. Bruno thinks she was flickering like a flame, and he thinks everybody got picked up from their sofa to celebrate with that jive. Craig gives just one word to summarise: "fab-u-lous".

Tess asks Charlie what it's like to hear the word "fabulous" on Christmas Day. Charlie: "How should I know? It's November 28th." Oh, okay, fine: Charlie just says it was brilliant and thanks everyone. Tess says that the jive had more energy "than a catfight in the Queen Vic" and Charlie is too out of breath to do much more than wheeze her agreement. Tess asks Charlie how it would feel to win the trophy, and Charlie says that she wants to win it for Vincent - "he's got to win something". For some reason, the sarky "he's never won" approach goes down with me far better than the earnest "he really deserves it" à la Debra. I have no idea why - presumably I'm just a naturally catty person. Scores: Craig 9, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 10 for a total of 37.

Time for a look at the festive leaderboard: Debra and Charlie are joint top, Simon and Barry are joint middle, and Su is at the bottom. Tess reminds us that the studio audience will vote for the other half of the total score, and then we get treated to a recap of the dances that we've just seen, even though there is no phone vote. With that in mind, let's just skip over that, shall we? Jolly good.

Since we need to pad this out a bit in order to occupy a whole hour of Christmas primetime scheduling, here's Shakin' Stevens with 'Merry Christmas Everyone'. The sound during this whole performance is a bit poor - you can barely hear him. Of course, depending on your tolerance for this particular festive hit, that might be a good thing. (I actually love this song and Shakin' Stevens, so I'm a bit disappointed, personally.) [Not as good as the year he performed this on Dancing on Ice, is it? - Carrie] There is a giant, conspicuous Christmas pudding set on the stage, so all eyes are on that until it finally bursts open near the end of the song to reveal - sigh - Russell Grant in his hideous gold suit. I would have paid someone good money to ensure that the Christmas pudding was completely secured and he was unable to bust out of it, and would eventually have just been lobbed into a BBC props store somewhere and not released until November next year at the earliest. Anyway, the audience goes nuts because RUSSELL IS THE STAR OF THE SHOW THIS YEAR IN CASE YOU HAVEN'T HEARD EVERYONE LOVES HIM AND HIS ADORABLE HOMOSEXUALITY, and Flavia arrives to pelt him ineffectually with faux snowballs - fauxballs, if you prefer. Make your own joke about Russell and balls if you want, but I refuse to encourage him. They do an encore of their American smooth, and oh God just FUCK OFF. I'd rather have watched Widdy again than sit through this. Hell, I'd rather have sat through the Snowdance. Or Penny Lancaster's jive. Or the Vorderumba. Or...well, you get the idea. (God bless the person who uploaded a decent-quality video of the Vorderumba to YouTube on Christmas Eve - an amazing Christmas present for us all. Now, all we need is a similarly benevolent person who's got Denise Lewis's jive somewhere in their collection...) Russell ends off-time with the music, because he may be lolz, but he's also shit.

After that, it's time to find out who's won the ugly trophy. Everyone gets a brief recap of something nice that the judges said about them - but who won the audience's vote? The Christmas champions of 2011 are...Charlie and Vincent! The firework curtain erupts and Charlie shrieks with delight as Vincent grabs her and lifts her up. That's right, he lifts her up, even though they are the same height. Tess asks Charlie how it feels to be a Christmas champion, and Charlie says that her little girl Kiki is going to be very happy. Tess congratulates Vincent on his first ever win, even though Christmas specials totally don't count. It's not like scooping the ugly trophy with BARROWMAN last year dented Kristina's steely determination in the slightest. Charlie says that she's had a great time and made a good friend in Vincent.

The victors are sent on their way, and Tess thanks everyone for taking part and watching. To see the show out, we have the stars of this year's series reunited for the very last time, even though we should not care about them because they are not lolgay like Russell is and are therefore not IMMORTAL LEGENDS OF TELEVISION. To demonstrate this, we have an extremely poor CGI shot of Russell on top of the Christmas tree, dressed as a fairy. See? Lolgay. He waves his wand (fnar) and then appears full-size in the middle of the judges, and I hope for someone to club him over the head with that comically large prop turkey that's now on the judges' desk, but no one obliges me. Anyway, all the BORING NON-LOLGAY contestants come back to do some BORING PROPER DANCING to 'Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!', and everyone's been given bits that make the most of their respective skill sets: Holly's given the opening bit that requires minimal effort, James has been allowed to throw things at Alex, Robbie has been allowed on camera, Jason has been given some hammy theatrical business, Russell has some more LOLGAY, Anita is demonstrating her love of all things flaming by standing by the fire with Robin, and Harry and Chelsee get the actual dancing right. Eventually, this segues into 'Wonderful Christmastime' (AARRRRGH) as the Christmas contenders return, and the judges shuffle along the floor to join them for some festive celebrating.

That's it for us in 2011! We will, of course, be back next year for series ten, and in the meantime, be sure to join us for Bitching On Ice in January. Thanks for reading, and have a very happy new year!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Harry ending

Final: 17th December 2011

Show One

So, you might have noticed that it's not exactly been a banner year for The X Factor. The Strictly producers certainly have, since they decide to open this year's final with some snippets of the mass of positive press coverage their competition has had this year, with just a few of them mentioning how this show has beaten out its normally unbeatable ratings rival on several occasions. Hooray for Strictly! I'm particularly pleased they included that Radio Times cover that was devoted to how Russell Grant was the best thing ever to happen to the show, which came out two days after he got voted off. Tee hee hee. We are treated to a montage of madness from the series (my verdict: far too much Russell, not nearly enough Nancy) as Len opines that this line-up is the BEST EVER, as he does every year. It's as much a tradition as Craig withholding his ten until the last possible moment, or indeed Alesha being the first judge to award one. The Voice of Tess calls it "a golden year" (all right, let's not get carried away) and reminds us that we had Musicals Broadway week, Hallowe'en week, BLACKPOOL WEMBLEY week and another Film Movie Week. Maybe next year we should have a Strikethrough Week, judging by the way things have gone in 2011? Also, the Duchess of Cornwall popped by to give everyone a nine at some point. Jennifer Grey is conspicuous by her absence.

Now just three "gladiators" (they really are running away with that theme, aren't they?) remain: Harry, Chelsee and Jason. They've all been dolled up in Gladiator-wear for intro VT purposes, and of course Harry has chosen to violate all manner of the Coliseum's health and safety regulations by not wearing a breastplate and instead giving us all a good look at his nipples again. Chelsee and Jason are a little more covered up, for reasons of taste and decency. Funny how that works. They've been dancing for 99 days and nights, we are told, and survived 11 eliminations, vanquishing 10 rivals. Now, I don't want to start this recap on quite such a strand of negativity, but there's some dodgy maths going on here, because unless you reinstate someone, you can't have 11 eliminations but only get rid of 10 people. You could make a case for them simply having got the numbers the wrong way round (if you count Alex and Holly's eliminations as one giant elimination, since they went in the same episode, the numbers work out), but I don't think that's what they're doing, because we see a grid of 10 contestants being eliminated one by one on the screen, and one couple is missing. Guess which one. Go on, guess. That's right: Russell and Flavia. Tess concludes the sentence "...and fired The Grant into space." So we're actually counting Russell Grant's elimination as entirely separate from everyone else's, and worthy of special mention? JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, GET OVER IT ALREADY. He only finished eighth, he can't have been that bloody popular. Tess reminds us that the judges have relinquished their power (we see a shot of them all dropping their ten paddles onto the desk, and I wonder how difficult it was to get Alesha to let go of hers. I can only assume they bribed her with some lovely booze) as we see some of their more negative feedback, and now it's down to our votes alone to decide who gets the glitterball this year in BLACKPOOL. This is the grand final - Strictly Come Dancing 2011 AD! Y'know, because of the whole gladiator thing. Although given the endearingly antiquated nature of this show, perhaps they just wanted to be sure we all knew what era we're in.

Titles! I can barely even remember Dan Lobb's existence. One last time: RINGER FOR KATYA NEXT YEAR PLEASE. [Katya and Pasha are doing their own tour next year. We can go, yes? - Carrie] [It's an evening of dance AND CONVERSATION. Just try to keep me away. - Steve] There's even a special BLACKPOOL remix at the very end, singling out the three finalists, which is quite a nice touch.

So, remember what whole gladiator theme in the intro? Yeah, it's bleeding into the opening pro dance. The six male pro dancers (minus Pasha, for obvious reasons) are in their best battle attire, and everyone except Anton and Vincent has got their chest out. Anton I can understand, but I feel a bit sorry for Vincent. Anyway, they mince their way through an amusingly fey swordfight to 'Living On A Prayer' before Natalie, Katya, Ola, Erin and Flavia appear, all with their midriffs out, to cavort enticingly. Then James, Anton and Robin reappear, brandishing nets at their celeb partners, because apparently this is how they paso-ed in Roman times. Katya is stuck at the back for nearly the whole routine. Poor Katya - she really got a raw deal this year, didn't she? Still, at least she got that amazing bisexual showdance with Natalie, Pasha and Brendan that will live on forever in brilliance and infamy. The whole thing comes to a climax as Artem, Brendan and Vincent reappear, drawing the three finalists behind them in chariots. Amazing. Artem has Harry and Aliona, and Harry has his nipples out (make the most of them, they'll be disappointingly covered-up for most of the evening. This is the downside of doing your finale in The North, it's far too cold to leave your hotties unclothed), while Brendan has Jason (mostly covered up, thankfully) and Kristina, and Vincent draws Chelsee and Pasha (Pasha has his nips out, but see above re: their general scarcity this evening). I have to say, that was one hell of an entrance. Camp as hell, of course, but this is still Strictly Come Dancing when all is said and done.

Now we have a Bruce, and we have a Tess. Daly Dresswatch: SO VERY CLOSE. If you only ever saw Tess shot in close-up this evening, you'd think she'd excelled herself, because as long as you only see from her thighs upwards, she's wearing a lovely silver sequinned dress that is actually a very flattering fit. Unfortunately, the second they cut to a long shot you'll see that from the thighs downwards, she's wearing some sort of hideous beige floor-length petticoat. Why? They welcome us to the show, and for the benefit of the six people actually watching in 3D, make a joke about how amazing it is to see such an iconic monument on that all-important z-axis. Not the Blackpool Tower, of course, but Bruce's chin. Bruce reminds us that the judges' scores are just for our guidance this evening, and Tess explains that the first two dances of the evening for each couple will be a reprise of the judges' favourite of all their dances from the series, and then that all-important showdance, and that the phone lines will be opening after everybody has danced once. The couple with the fewest votes will be eliminated at the start of the results show tonight at 9pm, while the other two will do two more dances. Red button viewers can, of course, join Karen in the commentary box with Strictly "guru" Jimi Mistry. I hate it when people describe actors or singers using their film or song titles, even if they are trying to make a pun-based endorsement out of them (even so, Jimi Mistry finished 10th. Michelle Williams lasted longer than he did). I mean, say Tilda Swinton were in Karen's Korner this week (unlikely, I realise, but just go with me here), would you refer to her as a Strictly thumbsucker? A Strictly adaptation? A Strictly we need to talk about Kevin? No. So just don't do it at all, eh?

Right, on we go. Harry and Aliona are going first, and judging from the outfits, they're reprising their quickstep. Rather than "here they are in training", we'll be finding out what the show has meant to Harry. He says that he's very happy to be in the final, and has been smiling all week. He found the semi-final quite stressful, but at least he got to do his Charleston first, which meant that he got the more uptempo number out of the way early on. Holly Valance is like "yeah, NO KIDDING". He felt more relaxed going into his Viennese waltz, and then found himself in the final. He was terrified of doing his first dance, and Aliona says that she wasn't sure about him at first: "he came into the training room pigeon-toed, and I thought 'oh, bless'." Hee! I'm surprised to say it, but Aliona's really grown on me this year. I mean, she's still no Natalie/Katya/Erin personality-wise, or a Natalie/Katya/Kristina choreography-wise, but she's working her way up to mid-pack, which is better than nothing, right? [Pfft. Aliona remains the worst. And poor Ola, her role in Harry's dance training utterly ignored. - Carrie] [I rewatched Harry's Children in Need paso as I was writing this up. I realise they probably didn't have much time to train for it, but on a technical level it really wasn't impressive. I'm not sure how much credit for his training Ola realistically deserves. - Steve] Aliona decided that she had to get his personality out. And by personality, she means "vagina". Harry reminds us that he is a drummer and is therefore given to hiding behind stuff, and wasn't sure if he could get out there and perform. His highlight was getting three tens for his quickstep, and he feels very lucky to have been part of the show. The McFly boys offer their opinions: Danny says that they all laughed at him to start with, and then realised he was actually quite good. Dougie likens it to having a kid and watching him play football for the first time. Ooh, MANLY SIMILE IS MANLY. Asked if he'd do it again, Harry replies: "It's genuinely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that's why you can't do it again." Personally I'd say it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because you can't do it again, but potatoes, puhtahtoes.

Their quickstep is, of course, to 'Don't Get Me Wrong'. I absolutely love the choreography for this, and think it's a sign of Aliona FINALLY getting the hang of this show, but I don't think he's dancing it quite as well as he did first time out. His balance seems a little off near the beginning, and there's a skipping section partway through which just feels a bit rough around the edges. Nothing ruinous, but enough that if I were scoring it, it would be a nine rather than a ten. That's not to detract from all the achievements of this dance, mind, because I will forever be in awe of the energy and technique that Harry's shown both times he's performed it. And (spoiler) we'll see over the course of the evening that all three reprised dances aren't quite as good the second time round, so it's by no means a fault unique to Harry.

Bruce welcomes the fabulous singers, Dave Arch, and his wonderful wonderful orchestra. Wow - comma in the right place and everything! I mean, if I were being really pernickety I'd want another comma between the two wonderfuls, but I probably shouldn't push my luck. Bruce jokes that he's promised to buy all the judges a drink after the show. I'd rather hoped he'd buy Alesha one beforehand. DRUNK ALESHA FOR HEAD JUDGE. Len opens the comments with "throughout history, there have been epic battles", and I don't know about you, but whenever someone opens a sentence with "throughout history", my heart sinks. Anyway, Harry's ballroom battle is akin to a Trafalgar or a Waterloo, because they all involved his guns blazing, or something. Mmm. Harry's guns. Sorry, where was I? Alesha congratulates Harry on making the final, and says that his quickstep is one of her favourites from the series, adding that he maximised the floor space here in BLACKPOOL and gave the competition a very strong start. Bruno tells Harry that he conquered BLACKPOOL with a quickstep of timeless elegance. But what did Craig make of it? He reminds us that he didn't like Harry's lazy left foot last time, but he seems to have improved that, so Craig absolutely loved it.

Over in the Tess Circle JESUS CHRIST WHAT IS ANITA DOBSON WEARING. That is far too much pink for any one person to be wearing at one time. She looks like a Snowth. Tess tells Harry he laid down the gauntlet and asked if it felt good, and Harry says that everyone's been telling him to enjoy himself all day because it's his last chance, and he really did enjoy himself, so thank you to everyone who said that. Such lovely manners. Tess asks him to describe the atmosphere here in BLACKPOOL, and Harry encourages us to take the best night of the series and multiply it by ten. Speaking of which, here are the scores: tens all round for a total of 40.

Harry and Aliona scarper off to get changed for their showdance, and it's time for Jason and Kristina to reprise their tango. What does Strictly mean to Jason? Something stultifyingly earnest, no doubt. Jason feels that a little bit of magic happened for him in the semi-final, and he wasn't expecting to get full marks for his Argentine tango. Well, at least that puts him on the same page as the audience. He'd describe the show as the most incredible ride of your life - he started amazingly, and was pleased that his kids weren't embarrassed for him to drop them off at the school gates (judging from the little we saw of his kids on It Takes Two this week, I think that might have been the first time) - but everything came tumbling down for him during the paso doble. Still, Jason spins this as the highs meaning more when you've had the terrible lows and the creamy middles. The music editors line up Green Day's 'Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)', and since they've done such stellar work all series, I can only assume they know the proper title of that song and are using it on purpose. Jason says something weird about how usually when nice things happen in his life he's been single, but this time he had his family around him. Bokay then. His kids reappear, and are very proud of him. "He didn't really dance before he was in the show," says Daughter Donovan. He was in the West End doing Priscilla, pet, he must have at least been doing a bit. Kristina says that Jason is the hardest-working person she's ever known. Oh my God - more so than John Sergeant? More so than Goldie? Say it ain't so! She gets all verklempt and says that win or lose, this has been a wonderful experience. Jason drones that he's exceeded his own expectations and will always be proud of that.

They repeat their tango to 'I Will Survive', complete with giant pink feather fans. I fear for the people watching in 3D, as Jason's variety of tango faces are terrifying enough on regular television. It's an utter campfest, as you'd expect (controversial opinion: I think Jason's done a much better job at delivering a camp routine than Russell ever did, but then that's perhaps because Jason had other wells to draw from and was able to use that card sparingly) and Bruno is up on his feet and loving it. His posture in the sections in hold is not great, though. Of the three repeat performances in the first half of the final, I think this was the one that came closest to recapturing its original glory, though even this one didn't quite make it.

Alesha shushes Bruno and tells him to behave. Heh. She tells Jason that he really excelled in this dance, and Kristina's clever choreography showcased Jason's personality. She likes the rarity of seeing a joyful, upbeat tango. Bruno thinks Jason's excelled, and calls it a tango with spilt personalities, arguing that half the time Jason was like Hugh Jackman in Wolverine and the other half, he was like a disco diva. Still, he loved it. Bruce asks Bruno if he wants one of his pills. Oh Bruce. I think Bruno always wants one of his pills. Craig thinks Jason's bottom was sticking out a lot, and the chasses were a bit skippy, but it was a fantastic number and he loved it. He thinks Jason's made it this far through determination and "good old-fashioned hard work". Len tells Jason that he's survived "14 weeks" of blood, sweat and tears. Except the competition's only been going for 12 weeks - 11 if you don't count the one we're currently in the middle of. Maybe Len's counting from the launch show, or using a special Len calendar. Who knows? He says that Jason's giving the other two a run for his money despite being old and withered, or something like that.

Back in the Tess Circle, Tess congratulates him on making it this far, and Jason thanks everyone who's allowed him to do so. He says that sharing it with Kristina has made it all very special, and seeing his kids watching was even better. Tess cuts him off before he can talk too much about the importance of impressing his kids. Heh. Scores: Craig 9, Len 10 (still doing that awful "from Len, a 10" business), Alesha 10, Bruno 9 for a total of 38. There are boos for the nines, and yet on Twitter there were complaints about all the tens. Which basically demonstrates that you can't please everyone. I know, it's a shocker, isn't it?

Next we have Chelsee and Pasha reprising their jive, and...oh dear. I mean, I know they weren't going to have time to give Pasha the full Shrek make-up job tonight (or to be more accurate, they weren't going to have time to remove it), but this strange no-man's-land they've gone for instead is somehow even worse. Basically he's got two Shrek ears stuck to the side of his head, and then they let a small child scrawl around the outside of his face with a yellow highlighter pen. Poor Pasha. I can only assume they do these things to him lest his hotness prove too maddening for the people at home and we all break out in some sort of sex riot. Joke about how Chelsee is NORTHERN and COMMON, and then we get her journey VT. The one thing that strikes me right away is that she's had the best hair journey of anyone on the whole show: going from that unpleasant blonde job she was sporting at the launch and in the early weeks to the sleek dark hair she's sporting now: undeniable upgrade. Her semi-final was nerve-wracking, but she got a perfect score for her paso, and she never expected to make the final. She admits that a lot of people didn't know who she was when the series started - and indeed many of them still don't - adding that people expected her to struggle with the waltz because it is elegant and she is not, but she's pleased to have found her elegant side. Her quickstep was a highlight - getting four nines and being at the top of the leaderboard. She talks about how Pasha is lovely and genuine, and Pasha talks about how Chelsee is brilliant without knowing it. Chelsee: "I love my Pash-Pash." And if that didn't make you go "awww", then you have a HEART OF STONE, my friend. A heart of stone. She feels like she's grown up a lot throughout the competition - if not in size, then she's grown within. Pasha hopes she's learned to believe in herself. Chelsee says that winning would mean a lot to her because she'd make her family so proud, and Chelsee's mum says that she's done amazing(ly) and it's a dream come true. She mentions Chelsee's dad, who is dead, but does it in a matter-of-fact way that doesn't seem gratuitous, so I hope The X Factor is taking notes. Chelsee promises to treasure the experience forever.

They're repeating their jive to 'I'm A Believer', and somehow it's even more energetic than it was the first time, and every bit as endearing. Sadly, the curse of the repeat dance strikes Chelsee too, and her footwork is a little bit messy at times and some of her kicks aren't so well-defined. It's just such an enjoyable routine, though. I'm welling up a little bit just watching it now. Should I admit that? Oh well, too late now. Also, well done to Chelsee and Pasha for improving on the original in one aspect: last time out they didn't quite get the end-of-dance frog-kissing set piece right and Pasha ended up kissing its forehead rather than its lips, but this time they get it absolutely bang-on. They drop the frog as they hug each other excitedly, and before they head over to Bruce, Pasha picks the frog back up and puts it back on the tree stump with a little "stay!" gesture that is both adorable and hilarious. Seriously: what did we do before we had a Pasha?

Bruno tells Chelsee that was a "premium-grade jive of eye-popping vibrancy". Craig calls it "a complete and utter bundle of joy to watch". Len says that seeing someone like Chelsee come from having no dance experience to delivering a jive as good as that gives him as much pleasure as judging the world championships, which is actually very sweet as long as you don't dwell on the inherent fame-dropping in there. Alesha says that Chelsee is adorable, and that's her favourite jive of the series.

Tess tells Chelsee that she has a one-in-three chance of winning the show [that's NOT HOW COMPETITIONS WORK, Daly - Carrie], and asks her if she finally believes she can dance. Chelsee does, hooray! Bet Claudia's gutted she missed that after all her weeks of priming. Chelsee thanks Pasha and says she wouldn't be able to dance without him. She says that this is the best night of her life, and she feels she's danced her way through the nerves. Scores: Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Tess reminds us that the scores are just for guidance while Pasha gives us the eye - down the wrong camera. Bless.

Halfway leaderboard: Harry at the top, Chelsee second, and Jason at the bottom, though there's only one point between each set of couples, and the judges' scores count for nothing tonight anyway. Tess declares the lines open from now until 8:30pm, and reminds us of all the numbers.

We need a little bit of filler here, so Tess chats to some of the 2011 alumni: Audley, Bloody Lulu, Anita and Russell. As always, Russell takes the invitation to speak and runs for miles with it, yet saying almost nothing of any interest or substance the whole time. Anita thinks it's going to be so close tonight, and expresses her love for all the finalists. Tess asks Audley how they're going to cope with doing four dances tonight - like he's going to know - and he does a bit of X Factor-style maths for us before advising them all to keep their composure, saying that they all looked great in their first dances, so he's sure they'll do fine. Bloody Lulu is asked about the upcoming group dance, and she tells us to ignore that and focus on the actual finalists. Surprisingly sound advice from Bloody Lulu there.

Everybody finished with their costume changes? Jolly good, on with the showdances then. Harry and Aliona are going first again, so let's have a look at their training. Actual training, mind, not a comedy VT. Harry explains that it's a chance to let go and do some crazy lifts because there are no rules. They've got a 50s rock 'n' roll song, and they're planning to be "quite rebellious". Only quite, mind - so middle class, bless him. Aliona kicks Harry in the face a few more times, and Harry vows to nail it just in case it's the last dance they do on the show.

They're dancing to 'Great Balls Of Fire', and Harry removes a leather jacket to reveal a red shirt open to the waist. Hannah and I believe Aliona's outfit has changed entirely from the one we were shown on It Takes Two, from a dress to a sort of bra-top and some unflattering leggings, in a seeming tribute to BixMix. I'm assuming, given the amount of lifting involved, the original dress was deemed to be impractical and/or indecent. Let's face it, it wouldn't be the first time. Anyway, let's move on from matters sartorial and discuss the dance itself. It's fine, but not that great - as is often the case with male celebrities who are in good physical shape, it's a lot of lifts and not an awful lot else. There's a bit of cha cha cha, a bit of jive, but by and large it's mainly lifting. Some of the lifts are genuinely very good, some of them less so. Halfway through Aliona removes Harry's shirt sleeves to get his guns out, and it ends with Harry doing some actual drumming on an actual drum kit. A nice idea, but (a) not dancing and (b) not especially well thought-out, because the drum kit is up with the band and they did most of the dancing at the other end of the stage, so Harry and Aliona have to run across the floor just to finish the dance, and as we all know, running is not dancing.

Len says that if Harry were a stick of Blackpool rock, he'd have "talent" written all the way through him. He thought that one of the lifts near the end was a bit sticky, but other than that it was all very impressive. Alesha loved the concept, she thought the jiving was fabulous and the lifts verging on dangerous - and she liked seeing him back behind the drums, having expressed concern the other week that he's spent too long behind them. Women, eh? *Waits for Carrie to punch me in my stupid sexist face.* [I think Alesha's drunk again. - Carrie] Bruno was impressed by the strength and physicality, and loved the mix of jive and rock 'n' roll, though there was a tiny incident in one of the lifts. Still, Bruno has apologised to Harry for that, and explained that he was just drunk and that it will never happen again. *Rimshot.* Craig agrees with Len that Harry is absurdly talented, and though he thought the transitions could've been smoother, overall he thought it was fantastic.

In the Tess Circle, Harry says that he loved it. Tess asks if he ever anticipated doing a spot of drumming as part of the show, and Harry says that he thought at some point he'd probably have to give it a quick go. Tess suggests it could be a new direction for McFly. At this point Harry notices Aliona's lipstick mark on his cheek that's been there since midway through the routine and gets a bit embarrassed. Heh. Scores: Craig 9, Len 9, Alesha 10, Bruno 9 for a total of 37. In case that was his last dance, Harry wants to thank Aliona because "without her, I'm nothing - I'm just a hopeless drummer." Poor Ola. As Tess gives out the voting details, Aliona thanks him and Harry mumbles "seriously." Aww.

Jason and Kristina, anyone? Jason explains in their intro VT that their routine will be all about showbiz. Their rehearsal footage is blighted with the dread hand of comedy once more, as Jason smashes through a door with "THE RULES" graffito-painted on it, and Jason smashes a glitterball while Kristina protests. I love that in Aliona, Kristina and Pasha, we have the three pros in the final who are the worst actors as far as these things go. Maybe that's why the business is being kept to a bare minimum. Jason vows that this is his last opportunity to pull it out of the bag.

They're dancing to 'Dancin' Fool' from Copacabana, and Kristina is wearing a suit, though this is no dummy dance, thankfully. They do a bit of Broadway-style hoofing with canes, during which they're appallingly out of synch, then there are some lifts, and then Kristina removes her suit to reveal a hot pink gown. I think that was the best mid-dance costume change of the series, not that there's much competition. I guess this is why we leave the quick changes to the pros. Jason, of course, just takes off his jacket. From there they burst into a spot of quickstep and some more lifts, before more clothes come off as Kristina goes down to a boob tube and miniskirt and Jason..removes his tie. Heh. There are a couple of mis-steps but only very minor ones, and for entertainment and energy, I think Jason's steaming ahead of Harry in the showdance stakes.

Alesha tells Jason that if this were a marathon he would've won already - she loved the cane, the suits, the lifts and the quicksteps, and declares that a show dance. Not a showdance, but a show dance. Bruno goes one further and calls it more than a showdance: "it was a showbiz spectacular!" He tells them they should open on Broadway tomorrow (still no love for the West End?) and break box office records. Craig calls it ferocious and full-on and makes the usual joke about Kristina needing to be restrained. Len tells Jason that he's a showman and this is a showdance, so that's the perfect combination.

They skip back to the Tess Circle, where Jason says that it's great to be able to use all the elements of your personality, and he thinks Kristina got the choreography just right. Tess asks what it would mean to his kids if he comes home with the glitterball trophy, and Jason dad-jokes that they'll be in bed by then. Scores: 10s all round for a total of 40. Kristina's increasingly scrunchy face of joy as each consecutive top score comes out is a thing of brilliance.

Finally, we have Chelsee and her Pash-Pash. Their VT is about how "there isn't no rules" (per Chelsee) and how they're getting off on being naughty. Chelsee admits to being scared about all the tricks they'll have to do, and she gets a bit weepy in rehearsal, so Pasha tries to buck her up. Chelsee says that this could be the last dance she ever does, which sounds inadvertently morbid, so she's going to give it her all and have fun.

They're dancing to the disco version of 'One Night Only' from Dreamgirls, and Chelsee does a sexy shimmy up some steps to the top of a small podium, only to lose her balance a little bit when she gets to the top. Not the best of starts, really. Then Pasha arrives, disappointing me by wearing a white suit (seriously, I'm sure I've said this before, but NEVER trust a man in a white suit) and Chelsee climbs onto him, wraps her ankles around his neck, and he twirls without holding on to her. That is a brain injury just waiting to happen. As much as it pains me to say it, most of the lifts in this showdance are a bit sloppy, though the overall disco aspect of it is fine. In general, though, I'd say Jason's was my favourite of the three showdances. I would say that this would be the fourth year running that my least favourite finalist has done the showdance I liked best, but I'm not actually sure I can make a case for liking Pamela Stephenson less than Matt Baker. (Also, I would just like to stress that I loathed Tom Chambers' showdance, but up against Rachel Stevens' hugely disappointing best-of medley and of course the Irrepressible Snowdance, it was obviously the best of a very weak field.)

Bruno likens Chelsee to Sasha Fierce, and says it was hot and beautiful, but there were a few moments where she nearly lost it - though she covered it up well. Craig loved all the lifts, particularly the lobster claw one that you normally see ON ICE, and says that the whole competition is so close that it's impossible to call. Len liked the elements of hustle in there, and what saddens him is that one of these couples will be gone in just over an hour, but he thinks everyone has given their all. Alesha loved that Chelsee was set free, and she thinks that Chelsee dances with her heart and people can feel that.

Back in the Tess Circle, Tess calls Chelsee "baby Beyoncé, for one night only". Chelsee says that she loved the lifts. Pasha adds that he did too, and Chelsee is all "I know YOU did". Hee. Tess points out to Pasha that Chelsee made it look easy, and Pasha duhs "that's the whole point" right back at her. HA! Tess asks Chelsee if her mum and nan would be proud if she brought home the trophy, and Chelsee very sensibly says they're proud of her anyway for getting this far in the first place. Scores: nines all round for a total of 36.

Leaderboard: Jason and Kristina are at the top, with Harry and Aliona second, and Chelsee and Pasha at the bottom. Of course, being in the top spot after two dances in the final is not always the safest place to be: just ask Pamela Stephenson. Or Ricky Whittle. Or Lisa Snowdon. Or Zoe Ball.

Those are all of our dances for the first half, so let's recap: Harry's no-longer-lazily-left-footed quickstep and his cartwheeling showdance, guest-starring Harry's Nipples; Jason's super-camp tango and his super-camp showdance (bless); and Chelsee's 45%-less-Shrek jive and disco-liftin' showdance.

Oh sweet montage, come and take us to the halfway mark: Chelsee says that winning would mean the world to her, and knowing that she's got some of the British public behind her ("some", bless her) is such an overwhelming feeling - she never thought this many people would support her, and she's very grateful. Harry has learned not to be so conscious of what people think, and just to embrace things (yes, I endorse this idea, especially if those things include me) and take up a challenge. He feels blessed to have been a part of this. Jason never believed he could make the finals, and thanks his family for their support - "when I'm up, they're up with me, when I'm down, they're supporting me."

So that's it, for now at least. Bruce and Tess remind us of the logistic details of voting, and tell us to get to it. But who will be kicked out at 9pm? Join me...right below, as it happens.

Show Two

So, my boyfriend and I having spent the previous hour or so frantically voting for both Harry and Chelsee between us and running up a phone bill about the size of the Christmas Radio Times, and now it's time to return to the ballroom. Harry and Aliona, Jason and Kristina and Chelsee and Pasha are all lined up in their outfits for their scheduled third dances - but of course one couple will never get to perform it. The voice of Tess declares that we're just one hour away from declaring the champion - this is the final!

New, abridged titles, just featuring the three finalists this time. And of course dear old BLACKPOOL as a backdrop.

Daly Dresswatch: Tess has changed into another frock that looks fine up close but not from a distance. She must have a whole wardrobe full of them. It's a black lace number over a flesh-coloured underlay, which is fine until you look at the lower half and realise it's a mullet-dress. Bruce welcomes us back, and Tess reminds us that the phone lines are frozen. They tease the filler that's been lined up to pad out time before the winner is crowned, including the return of all the eliminated couples in a special exhibition number, and an unwelcome performance from the bothersome Jessie J, who apparently wasn't content with being the less-good half of a duet in BLACKPOOL WEMBLEY week but has returned to appall us all again, presumably so we're all warned before she takes on that judging role on The Voice UK.

Before all that, though, we have a recap of the earlier show. A lot of people run around backstage squealing about being nervous. Harry got excited about his first 40 for his quickstep, Jason was very pleased with his tango, and Chelsee is nervous but excited about the showdance. Speaking of which, Harry's was a bit dull and lifty, but got broadly favourable reviews, and he reminded us that it's now up to the public whether he gets to stay on in the competition. Jason and Kristina brought out a fun and mad routine, and Jason grins that he's aged a lot in the last three hours, but it's been perhaps the most special night of his life. Chelsee feels like she's given it her all, Kristina says that if this is her last dance, she'll feel very proud, and Harry says that he's got two more dances left in him, so he just hopes he'll get the chance to do them.

From there, we're back to the ballroom to discover the couple finishing in third place is...Jason and Kristina. They smile and hug, and I suspect they were anticipating this, even if they were hoping it wouldn't happen this way. They work their way through the other two couples for the obligatory hugs, congratulations and consolations, before joining Bruce and Tess at the side of the room. Bruce tells them he's been dreading this moment all day because he knew he'd feel the same whichever couple it was. He thinks they're all winners tonight. Except two of them. Jason says that this has been the most incredible experience in his life, apart from his wife and kids, and he'd like to thank the public who voted for him, and his family, and last but not least, he'd like to thank Kristina for her patience, her focus, her talent and her vision. Kristina's a bit choked up, and while I wasn't the biggest Jason fan, it was great to see what Kristina could do when she was given a capable partner for a change.

We see his Strictly journey, from facing his fears to blossoming in the early rounds, the obligatory "I expected to go out in week one", Jason feels like a different human being, and loves having people giving him shivers by telling him he was good. The judges give them a standing ovation as Jason and Kristina head back to the Tess Circle to join the rest of the eliminated couples. It's now down to Harry and Aliona vs Chelsee and Pasha. Tess assures us that all of our existing votes have been carried over, but the lines are now open once more and it's time to vote vote vote. (At this point, I declared myself happy with either one as a winner and refused to vote any more, because I would've just felt too guilty to pick one over the other. I'm such a sap.) As Tess reads out the voting numbers, Chelsee mutters something to Pasha which looks a lot like "I'm shitting myself" (disclaimer: I have no training in lip-reading; for all I know, it could equally have been "I fancy some chips").

Bruce stumbles over the announcement that both couples have two more dances to do - a dance that they have never done before, and their favourite dance of the whole series. Harry and Aliona will be first, once again, and they're doing an American smooth. Harry admits he's going to miss training, and Aliona smooshes him, saying "who wouldn't miss a face like that?" Harry says that they know each other very well now, having spent every day together for the past four months, and Aliona says that when it's all over she'll have no one to giggle at. Harry lists his highlights of his time on the show, which - worryingly - all seem to involve the comedy VTs, whether it's playing Danny Zuko to Aliona's Pink Lady (fnar), being Robin Hood in lurid green tights, and being an uptight 1920s gentleman learning how to woo a lady. If it should work out that they win the whole thing, it'd be the perfect ending for them, he reckons. Aliona says that he's a sweet, caring guy and she's going to miss him. We see them thanking their training room as they leave for the last time to head to BLACKPOOL. I think they definitely need some time apart after that.

Their American smooth is to 'Can't Help Falling In Love', and very sensibly, they've decided to base it on the Viennese waltz. I genuinely adore one of the lifts into it - where Aliona just gently leaps at Harry and he catches her on his forearm, before they join hands and he twirls her around. It's very simple (aesthetically, I mean, I'm sure it's very difficult to actually perform) but very effective. There's a little stuttery bit in the middle where he seems to lose the rhythm very slightly, but apart from that, it's gorgeous - danced incredibly close together, very passionate, very tender. The last lift, where Aliona inverts herself over his shoulder and then rest on his back in a sort of cross position while Harry supports her arms, is a little inelegant-looking, I suppose.

The crowd goes wild, and we go to the judges: Len says that he loved Harry's Viennese waltz before, and with the added elements now where they can do lifts and part company, they've turned a great dance into an unbelievable one. Alesha thinks Harry is an accomplished dancer and a true talent. Bruno tells Harry that this is the perfect fit for his charms, and calls him "Your highness" again. He does know he's not actually Prince Harry, right? Craig: "Well, if it wasn't the final, darling, there's a plethora of things I could say about your hands, but I loved it." Bizarrely, Bruce berates Harry for not doing that dance earlier, and sends him off to the Tess Circle, where Tess tells Harry that there's many a lady at home who can't help falling in love with him. Yes, Tess, it's just the ladies. Heteronormativist. (Ugh, that cover is ruined for me by the mention of Mario from The Only Way Is Essex. Why do people find him attractive? I don't care how good you think he looks with his shirt off, he is such a misogynist prick. I mean, I'm not a fan of Lucy but every time they were on screen together I just kept screaming at her to RUN AWAY FROM THE BAD BAD MAN.) Tess asks Harry what he'd like to say to the people at home who voted for him, and Harry talks a lot about how humbling it all is. Scores: Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10, Bruno 10 (with the last three all competing to see who can sound the most like a revving engine. I think Alesha wins) for a total of 39. Also: well done Aliona for finally learning what an American smooth is meant to look like.

Now we have a rumba from Chelsee and Pasha. In her VT, Chelsee admits that she's going to miss the buzz of show days and the whole backstage atmosphere. She's also going to miss training with Pasha, because it's been like hanging out with a mate (those ever-witty editors choose to play this remark over a shot of Chelsee running after Pasha and attempting to squeeze his bum, thereby making us all wonder if this is what Chelsee normally does when she's hanging out with her mates). Pasha says that she's like a little sister to him now. Sorry, Chelsee/Pasha shippers, looks like it's not happening. You'll just have to make do with Kara and Artem. Chelsee says that her highlight was getting painted up as Princess Fiona for her Shrek-themed jive: "I think a lot of people didn't even think I had make-up on, either." Heh. Chelsee says that she's sad to think that the rumba will be the last new dance she learns with Pasha, and it's very upsetting to think about not seeing "my Pasha" every day. Pasha says that Chelsee is one of a kind, and it was so much fun working with her.

Their rumba is to 'Because Of You' by Kelly Clarkson, which is an A+ song choice, first and foremost. Things start well enough: there's some lovely shaping, some good rumba walks, and they're both selling the hell out of the emotional aspect of the dance. They've implemented some running splits, almost as if to make up for the ones that didn't quite go to plan during her American smooth last week, though unfortunately this is where things start to go wrong a little bit for me. The next section is very quick, and Chelsee seems to have been caught off-balance so she's rather unsteady, and then there's a back-and-forth bit where she seems slightly hesitant. Also, much as I hate to hate on the wardrobe department yet again, whoever decided it was a good idea to attach one end of a strip of fabric to the top of her dress and the other end to her arm is a fool, because it keeps ending up getting draped over her face and stopping her from being able to see, which can't help matters. I think the sudden rush of tempo near the end of the song throws her as well, because Pasha's choreographed a lot of very quick movements in there as well, and she struggles a bit to place her movements properly. I know there was a lot of love for this rumba on Twitter at the time and a lot of people saying it deserved top marks, but I'm afraid I couldn't quite get on board with it. I think the nerves just got to her a little bit on this one. It's still a great rumba, maybe even the best rumba of the series, just not a perfect one from my perspective.

Afterwards, Bruce is bawling "but why did you leave him?" Because it's a rumba, Bruce. About 80% of the rumbas on this show end like that. Chelsee jokes that she'd had enough. Alesha tells Chelsee that she puts her heart and soul into every dance, and that she's been a joy to watch throughout the series. Bruno tells her she "nailed that rumba" and acted it like a movie star. Craig thought it was "absolutely magnificent". Len says that the rumba "is like Len's Lens - because it's so slow, everything is magnified." Yes, Len, I'm sure that's exactly what the inventors of the rumba were thinking when they created it. However, even Len's Rumba Lens didn't reveal anything he didn't like. Chelsee is very glad she got to perform this dance.

They run back to the Tess Circle where Tess tells Chelsee that she pulled it out of the bag and made it to the final two. Chelsee says she can't express her gratitude to the people who voted for her, and that knowing people like her means a lot to her. I really hope this has actually given Chelsee a bit of a self-esteem boost, because it worries me when she says things like that. Learn to love yourself, Chelsee! It's the greatest love of all! Scores: Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39.

Chelsee and Pasha depart to get changed for their last dance, and then to fill a bit more time, we have a VT to remind us all of how the series panned out. We started with Eggwina groping Vincent and getting eliminated for her trouble. Then Dan Lobb chucked Katya around "like a bag of cement", according to Bruno, and naturally the viewing public did not take kindly to this display of disrespect to the almighty Katya, and voted to send him packing. After four weeks, the Latin curse came for Rory and eliminated him after his cha cha cha - but at least Erin wasn't wearing anything too embarrassing this time. Regrettably, Nancy Dell'Olio was given her marching orders at Hallowe'en despite her clearly brilliant zombie rumba. We had to put up with Bloody Lulu for six whole weeks before the public finally saw sense and dispatched her after an uninspiring tango. Having clung on through even more appearances in the bottom two than Nancy, Audley went next after a particularly static cha cha cha. After eight weeks of aggressive humility and more ham than Pamela Stephenson during a particularly frenzied game of Pass The Pigs, the voting public took pity on me and sent Russell Grant home after he and Flavia decided that being fired out of a cannon was more important than dancing. Anita Dobson managed a creditably long stay in the competition despite being a little bit shaky, but the Plucky Older Lady vote could only carry her so far, and she was eliminated in week nine while poor Robin was at home nursing an infected foot, leaving Brendan with the dubious honour of being the first pro to suffer two eliminations in the same series. Robbie Savage, meanwhile, lingered like a particularly eggy fart and spent the entire time whining that Craig was being SO MEAN to him, but after ten weeks even his supporters had had enough. Alex gradually evolved into a dancer, hopefully not as a result of James's attempts to torture her into brilliance, and Holly's I'm-too-wealthy-to-give-a-shit indifference proved surprisingly endearing, but lamentably they couldn't quite hang on for the final and were both eliminated in joint-fourth place.

Now, you might think this would all segue into the Triumphant Return Exhibition Dance, Possibly Featuring Paloma Faith, but you'd be wrong. Instead, they're all still in the Tess Circle. Tess asks Alex if she's feeling withdrawal symptoms, and Alex says that it feels like someone chopped her right leg off. Fortunately, James did that for real in week three of training, so she's used to the sensation by now. Tess asks Robbie if the welcome is different when you're dancing in BLACKPOOL rather than playing football, and he says that he thinks whenever he's played football here he's lost, but he feels that tonight they're all winners. Rory feels lucky to even be here, because the standard of dance has been so high, and he's very excited to be dancing in 3D. Nancy says that she has "a few signature moves", and suggests we might see them again.

Bruce, sounding like a man reading an autocue at gunpoint, says that this has been an incredible year for our next guest star: J-J-J-Jessie J. She's here singing 'Price Tag' and dressed as Rita Repulsa, sadly without Moon Head or Coconut Man. I assume that since it's not about the money, money, money, she will of course have waived her appearance fee. Actually, I hope she waived her appearance fee either the way, because this is unpleasant. How unfortunate that this woman is judging The Voice UK. I feel it's an interesting comment that last year, Paloma Faith seemed happy enough to combine her performance with the lap of honour dance from the eliminated couples, whereas Jessie J has brought her own dancers. Actually, I hope everyone just collectively refused to dance next to the Mystic Meg of Pop because she's so fucking annoying. Anyway, Jessie J continues to make sounds that no one would ever want to hear, and it goes on far too long, but eventually it ends. Hooray!

Once the abomination is vanquished, it's time for the final competitive dances of the series, as Harry and Chelsee each pick their favourite dance to repeat. Harry and Aliona (or Elna, as Bruce calls her) are up first, and they've chosen their Argentine tango. I loved this first time around and, in a pleasing break from this evening's tradition, it's every bit as good second time around. Honestly, if Len tries to claim that it lacks "intensity" this time, I'm going to use this evening's magical 3D broadcast powers to reach into the telly and clock him.

Bruno calls Harry sharp and cutting, like a steel blade, and he loved the repressed lust bubbling underneath. IT'S NOT FOR YOU, BRUNO, CALM DOWN. Craig says that, like the nation, he has fallen for Harry too. Len reminds us that last time he was a crotchety bastard, and despite nothing being different this time, he likes this routine now. At least he's learned his lesson from giving Kara's American smooth a 7 in last year's final. A 7! I still can't think about it without getting angry. Alesha loves it even more than last time, and thinks it was a perfect choice for the final.

To the Tess Circle they go, and Harry says that he feels much more relaxed, having already done three dances, and he just wanted to enjoy it because it was his last dance on the show. Tess reminds him that it's his last dance with Aliona, so he gives her a hug, and then Tess little-girls that Craig's in love with him. Scores: 10s all round for a perfect 40.

For their final dance of the series, Chelsee and Pasha have also made an excellent choice and decided to resurrect their quickstep. I think this was the moment where people really started to see Chelsee as a contender, so yep, no complaints here. It's another great reprisal too: full of energy, technically brilliant, and just wonderful to watch. I think it was at this point I just started wailing "can't they both win?" Honestly, I've never been so torn between the final two ever before.

Craig simply repeats his comment from last time: "first-class, darling". Len thinks it could be his favourite dance as well. Alesha tells Chelsee it was a great dress, a great song, and a great dance. Bruno calls it "a great finale for the greatest season." Series, Bruno, not season. You're not in America now.

Back in the Tess Circle, Tess asks Chelsee if this is still her favourite dance. Yes, says Chelsee, but she also loves the rumba and just about everything ever, so it was quite a tough call. Tess reminds Chelsee that this is her final dance with Pasha, and Chelsee's getting a bit emotional as she thanks Pasha for helping her to become a dancer. Scores: Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Aw, I was really hoping for a 40 there, but sadly it was not to be.

Final leaderboard: Harry at the top, and Chelsee below, with just three points separating them overall. A few dances may have missed the mark here and there, but overall, it's been a damn good final, hasn't it? A video recap of all the performances of the night (minus Jason's), and you'll forgive me if I just skip over this at this point, won't you? Thanks folks.

Bit of filler, anyone? Here's what we all loved about the series, apparently. Lorraine Kelly talks about how it's the only programme she knows that entertains four generations of women. Some women talk about how they like Jason Donovan. Another lady talks about Russell and "Flabbia", possibly sending poor Flavia straight to the gym. A butcher laughs at Bloody Lulu's lack of poker face in the launch show. People talk in terms of various grossness about how much they fancy the contestants. "I think the older ladies have done us proud this year," says someone who clearly hasn't watched a single second. Holly's Black Swan American smooth gets some good reviews, as does Brendan's performance as Rent-A-Pro. People pretend that both Robbie Savage and BLACKPOOL WEMBLEY were good things, and of course there's a lot of focus on bloody Russell Grant. Several people object to Jason having been in the bottom two that time. There's a lot of love for Chelsee's jive, and various people lament the length of time they will have to wait for series ten.

When we return, Tess tells us that the lines have closed, so we mustn't call now unless we particularly want to be charged for no real reason - and if that's the case, then there are plenty of estate agents out there more than willing to perform that honour. Thank you, I'll be here all week! (No, seriously, at this rate I actually might be here all week.) While the final counts are being tallied, it's finally time to welcome back all of this year's also-rans.

They're all dancing to 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody'. We open with Ola, Erin, Katya, Anita and Bloody Lulu on the steps, looking bored - although to be fair, Erin's looked like that all series. Robbie does a knee-slide and a pelvic thrust, which is a whole world of DO NOT WANT, and Dan Lobb follows him with a...handspring? Something like that, anyway. Rory enters and has to do Latin hips again, poor man, before Brendan and Robin run in to pick up their ladies, and swing them about a bit. I might have been cheering for Robin to "accidentally" use the twirling Anita to kick Bloody Lulu in the head. Might. Edwina and Vincent reprise a bit of their cha cha cha, and it's still fairly inept. Anton summons Nancy out of a glittery coffin and she hops into his arms, and they do their trademark backdrop-lift-thing. Then all the couples form a line and do some cha cha cha steps, with Russell Fucking Grant at the front, naturally. The camera runs along the line until we get to the foot of the steps, where Holly and Artem and Alex and James get their own special "we only left last week" showcase spot. Then Dan and Vincent swing Bloody Lulu back and forth in their arms, Anton and Audley swing Anita, and Robbie and Rory swing Russell HA HA LOLZ RUSSELL IS A GAY AND THAT IS LIKE BEING A WOMAN. From there, it all degenerates into a bit of a free for all, and then everyone circles around the room while Anton, Robin and Artem hold Russell up in the air again. As much as I've enjoyed the final, at this point I am counting down the seconds to the end of the series just so that they can stop reminding me how innately hilarious Russell is and how everybody loves him. Especially since when they all start doing the same choreography again, he's a good two beats behind every one else. Seriously, I swear to God, EVEN NANCY DELL'OLIO IS GETTING THIS BIT RIGHT AND RUSSELL GRANT IS FUCKING IT UP. Mercifully, it ends shortly after that.

Time for one last VT before the result, I think. Chelsee talks about how Strictly is the best thing she's ever done a little bit more, and how a lot of people were judging her at the start based on appearances, but she feels encouraged at having changed a few people's minds. She loves her relationship with Pasha and how they have a laugh together, and she's proud of herself and it feels nice to be liked, again, some more. Harry has very much enjoyed his experience on the show, more so than he expected. He admits to having dreaded it before he realised what an opportunity it was, and he thinks Aliona deserves all the credit for bringing out the dancer in him.

And there they are, in the centre of the ballroom floor, the glitterball trophy within touching distance. Chelsee's looking nervous, sketching out the floor with her feet. There's a cute moment where Harry and Chelsee both mouth "good luck" to each other at pretty much the same time, and then Chelsee goes to say something else and Bruce starts talking, so Harry gives her a sort of "what was that? Oh, never mind, tell me later" gesture. Heh. Tess tells us that we've been voting in our millions, and now it's the moment of truth.

The winners of Strictly Come Dancing 2011 are...

...Harry and Aliona! Both reactions are lovely here - Harry can't actually believe it for a second, and then reaches out and grabs Aliona and lifts her up, while Chelsee instantly reaches out to him to say well done before Pasha grabs her too and pulls her into a big hug. Nicely played by everyone, I thought. The McFly boys storm the stage and start jumping up and down and grabbing Harry - it all happens very quickly, but there's at least one other guy also running around, who I assume is a friend of Harry's. Bruce starts shouting "get off the floor! Get off the floor!" and it's not easy to tell if he's play-acting his "crotchety old man" schtick or if it's genuine. Bruce starts complaining to Aliona about the kids these days (there's a sitcom waiting to happen) while Harry hugs Chelsee and then Pasha. Mmm, Harry hugging Pasha. Sorry. Everything gets a bit muddled here, as it frequently does - Tess tries to drag Chelsee and Pasha onto their marks so they can give their graceful concession speeches, but Chelsee's busy kissing Harry and Aliona again, and is generally just looking a bit overwhelmed, so Tess just gets us all to clap for them and sends them off to join the others. I feel a bit bad that they didn't get a little moment for themselves after doing so well, but I guess those are the breaks on live television.

Bruce asks Harry how it feels to be the champion, and Harry apologises for the trouble his friends caused. One last time: such lovely manners. Bruce tells Harry he's got a dancing career now, if he wants it. Yes, because that's what happened to all the other winners of this show. I hear Tom Chambers is in Cirque du Soleil these days, and Chris Hollins is working with Twyla Tharp. [To be fair to Chambers, much as I hate to be, he is starring in Top Hat, soon heading to the West End, with a Strallen. They are the Fred'n'Ginge de nos jours. - Carrie] Harry sensibly ignores this and opts to thank everyone that has "supported Aliona and I at home". Oh, Harry. You were doing so well, and then you let the middle-class side down with that last-minute grammar lapse. Your parents will never be able to show their faces at the country club again. He thanks everyone who's worked on the show, past, present and future, and says how honoured he is to have been a part of the "best show on TV". He thanks Aliona again for getting him through it, and Bruce presents them with the trophy, which they bear aloft, just as a prop cannon shoots a streamer right into Tess's face. Hee. The other couples run on to the floor to congratulate the winner and runner-up, though not before Chelsee and Harry have hugged again. Nancy makes a beeline for Chelsee, which is rather sweet. The men lift Harry onto their shoulders, as men do in these situations, and then Aliona's up there as well. Bruce and Tess thank us all for watching, and remind us to watch the Christmas special. The band strike up 'The Best' and Harry and Aliona get their moment in the spotlight, as Brendan makes his way from one side of the crowd to the other to give Pasha a hug - and who could blame him? Most people seem to be paired up one way or another, but Bloody Lulu is on her own. Heh. The judges get in there as well, and Len and Bruno both make a point of hugging Harry, and then we're out.

And that's it for this series! Thank you so much for reading - we've loved having you, and we hope you've enjoyed the recaps. All being well, we'll find some time over the festive season to recap the Christmas special, and then we'll see you all back here in September 2012 to begin Susanna Reid's inevitable journey to victory. Until then, goodbye!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

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

- There were a lot of injuries over the weekend: Chelsee had a bad back and neck, and Holly injured her knee.
- Chelsee changed her paso fan at the last minute.
- It was "never about winning" for James. Yeah, of course it wasn't. I'm sure if they had won, he'd have gallantly handed the trophy back and everything.
- Harry's Viennese waltz made a 50-year-old ex-rugby player and boxer cry.
- Johnny Ball is FURIOUS that Holly didn't make the final. Us too, Johnny Ball, us too.
- Holly wants to continue doing the Argentine tango and paso doble after the show.
- Hard things are good for you. Fnar.
- Jason is doing the salsa in the final.
- Chelsee channeled her annoyance with herself for messing up the running split in her American Smooth into aggression for the paso doble. It's certainly a strategy.
- Chelsee's getting Pasha's sexiness out for their rumba. FNAR.
- Pasha remembers anniversaries. Chelsee not so much.
- Karen thought Harry's Viennese waltz deserved a 40.
- The showdance is not aerobics. Thanks Karen!
- There's no point in doing the rumba if your partner isn't hot, according to Katya.
- Precisely 6,000 crystals were used on Alex's salsa dress.
- Aliona has injured Harry a lot in rehearsals - an elbow to the face appears to be her preference.
- Harry is reprising his Argentine tango to try to demonstrate his intensity for Len.
- No rules for Aliona means danger for everyone else. Seriously, those were her words.
- Harry's American smooth has a Viennese waltz theme to it.
- Judging from Nancy's guide to throwing the perfect Strictly final party this week, she needs to be on every episode of Celebrity Come Dine With Me from now until the end of time.
- All three couples are planning to reprise their quickstep for the final. Triple quickstep finale >>>>> triple foxtrot finale. Take note, series six.
- Jason is the straighest camp guy in town. Or the campest straight guy. Whichever makes him sound LULZIER, RIGHT KIDS?
- Kristina was a big fan of Jason's songs when she was younger, but didn't know much about his acting. I bet she's wishing she never asked now.
- It's getting increasingly harder to see how Jason was ever a professional singer. Still, there's hope for all of us, right?
- Chelsee's showdance music is 'One Night Only' from Dreamgirls, Jason's is 'Dancing Fool' from Copacabana, and Harry's is 'Great Balls Of Fire'.
- Bloody Lulu sang at the service station on the way to BLACKPOOL. Quite why they didn't leave her there is a mystery to us.
- If you can't dance in BLACKPOOL, you can't dance anywhere. It's the opposite of New York, New York in that respect.
- The two dances before the first elimination on Saturday will be Judges' Choice and Showdance.
- Pasha won't have time to do the full Shrek make-up for the jive in the final, but he's going to try for a bit of paint and the ears.
- Chelsee used to be Scary Spice in a Spice Girls tribute act.
- Nancy didn't go up on the coach to BLACKPOOL, because she has standards to maintain.
- Harry punched himself in the face trying to take off his trousers. Maybe he should get some help with that in future. Any volunteers?
- Jason's kids are adorable.
- Alesha doesn't remember getting a 10 off Craig in the series five final. :(

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Four gone conclusion

Top 5: 10th December 2011

Last week: It was Movie(/Film) Week in the ballroom once again, and tens were handed out to Holly, Chelsee and Jason. Meanwhile, the producers got wind that the test audience had demanded a happy ending, so Robbie Savage was eliminated. Hooray!

Tonight, it's the semi-final, and everyone is very excited about this. It's double measures all round, as the couples will all be performing two dances, and once the results are in, two of them will be going home. It's amusing as soon as the producers finally capitulated and sorted out a contingency plan to prevent two-couple finals caused by people having to withdraw, people stopped actually withdrawing. Everybody is very keen to get to BLACKPOOL (that's BLACKPOOL, not WEMBLEY, hope you're keeping up), though presumably this year everyone's getting to dance there anyway because it's the final and they'll all be coming back for their encore performance, so hopefully that'll keep the "I JUST WANT TO DANCE IN BLACKPOOL" stuff to a minimum.

Titles! This year's top five, incidentally, are all in the first six showcase spots in the titles. Rory Bremner's the interloper, just in case anyone's wondering.

Live from Television Centre for the last time this series (possibly ever - when are they knocking it down?), we have a Bruce and we have a Tess. Daly Dresswatch: for one brief moment it looks like Tess's dress might not be that bad - true, the corset-style top does unflattering things to her boobs, but other than that, it's not too bad, and the skirt's inoffensive enough. Then you look closer and you realise she's got a bizarre mesh thing covering the rest of her lower half, and there is no legitimate reason on this earth for its existence.

Tess reminds us that two couples must depart before BLACKPOOL, and Bruce gets all nostalgic at the thought of not being in Television Centre next week, pointing out the spot where Russell rode the bull, where Robbie nosebutted the camera, and where Nancy Dell'Olio went wrong - the last of those points being the entire dancefloor. Wah-wah-waaaah. Poor Nancy. So robbed. So misunderstood. I note that McFly are sitting several rows back from the front this week. What gives?

Time to meet the stars of our show: Chelsee and Pasha, with Pasha looking very dashing in pinstripes; Holly and Artem, with Holly sporting a scarlet number that makes her boobs look like they mean business; Harry and Aliona, with Harry in a naval-themed outfit that gives me Feelings and wonder how Freudian this all is (my dad's a sailor, you see); Alex and James, with Alex sporting arm-hankies that are so vast I think they might actually be arm-napkins; and Jason and Kristina, with Kristina sporting only two-thirds of a skirt. Well, I guess now that Ola's out of the competition, someone had to take up the baton.

We've a lot to get through tonight, so there's no hanging about: just a quick intro reminding us that Karen will be joined by Fern Britton for the red button commentary this week, and then we get straight to business with Harry and Aliona. Last week, Harry was very nervous and also wearing a snood, which is never a good situation for any man to be in. He reminds us that despite getting generally good scores, they were still third-from-bottom on the leaderboard last week, so they were very relieved to be declared safe by the Tesselator. Aliona screamed loudly, Harry screamed inwardly because he's a very well-brought-up young man who doesn't believe in emotions.

In rehearsals, Aliona whacks Harry in the face. Oops. Harry tells us that he has the Charleston and the Viennese waltz this week, which are quite contrasting as dances go. Harry would very much like to get to BLACKPOOL, and would also like to win, but being a proper gent he wants everyone to do well. Their comedy VT for the week involves the fact that they are training in the same building as Chelsee and Pasha, so Harry dons camouflage gear, war paint and...a potted plant and goes to spy on them. He feeds back to Aliona using a walkie talkie (and does the static noises himself, bless him). Aliona's acting throughout this is, as always, that strange combination of hammy and wooden that has become her trademark, and Harry runs back to tell her that they've got practice to do. Well, that was edifying.

Their Charleston is to 'I'm Just Wild About Harry' (OIC WUT U DID THAR) and I don't know whether it's the band's performance or my lack of overall familiar with the song, it always this unpleasant to listen to? It doesn't take a dance savant to spot that the Charleston, given its gurncentricity, was always going to be Harry's weak spot, and while he dances the whole thing with impressive rubber-limbed precision, there's no denying that it's all a bit lifeless. I watched this at a Strictly semi-final party (yes, that is how cool I am) and the other people in attendance complained that this dance was "boring". I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but then my taste in Charlestons definitely errs towards the "accomplished, well-danced" end of the spectrum than the "just pull lots of silly faces and hope for the best" end. There are lots of ambitious lifts, some more successful than others, and the overall effect is pretty cute, but probably not a routine that'll be remembered in the long run.

Bruce welcomes the fabulous singers and the judges. Bruce cracks a misogynistic joke about how women read magazines rather than books (and that's not even the punchline), and Len cites the two things that he enjoyed about that routine as "Aliona's midriff and your talent." Poor Aliona - now reduced to nothing but a midriff in Len's eyes. He reminds us that he said "I'm just wild about Harry" himself a few weeks ago and nothing has changed (and presumably, his less-than-warm feelings towards Aliona haven't changed either) and Len thinks that if Harry's Viennese waltz is that good, then he'll be in BLACKPOOL next week. Bruce sends Harry up to the Tess Circle. Eh? Apparently no one else is getting a comment on this one. Are we running over time already? Blimey.

Tess asks Harry if he can believe he's one dance away from the final, and Harry does the "just happy to be here, ma'am" response. Scores: Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Harry turns to hug Aliona and gives us all the benefit of how good his bum looks in those trousers. Any bets on how long it'll be before some magazine offers us the "how to get a bum like Harry's" diet and exercise plan? Tess says that with that score, Harry's set the standard for the evening, and asks the others if they're even more nervous than before now. As always whenever Tess spontaneously solicits opinions, a tumbleweed blows through the Tess Circle. Live television, ladies and gentlemen!

Up next are Alex and James. She reminds us of last week's DRESS MALFUNCTION that knocked her for six, though the judges were kind. Alex: "Love them, because it was a mess, and they could've really slated us." I genuinely enjoy Alex's unguarded honesty, especially considering James has spent the entire series trying to convince us that everything he's involved in is perfect. She was expecting the worst, so was very surprised to still be here. This week, they've got the waltz and the salsa. Alex says she's dancing to a song called '1-2-3-4' this week, so counting should be easy. I'm busy trying to work out if you can do a waltz to Feist or not until I realise that she actually means she's got '1-2-3' by Gloria Estefan for her salsa. Of course, the counting eludes her in the actual dancing. Alex explains that she and Robbie used to have an "us and them" mentality regarding the contestants they referred to as "the gladiators" (Jason, Harry, Holly and Chelsee) - but now it's just her. James tries to convince Alex that she can be a gladiator too, so they attack each other with those giant cotton bud things. Alex whoops James's arse. Rewind. Replay. Rewind. Slo-mo. Rewind. Enjoy. Honestly, I could watch that all day.

Alex's waltz is to '(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman' and there's a lovely smoothness to it that demonstrates that Alex's "journey" isn't entirely a construct of the show, and she really has improved a lot. She's lacking some tension in the upper half of her body, though, which leaves it feeling a bit limp in places. Still a very impressive effort though, and something that looks entirely at home in the semi-final, so well done Alex.

Alesha tells Alex that it's a shame that she doubted herself in the past, because dancing like that proves she deserves to be here. She wants Alex to be very proud of how far she's come. Bruno thinks she's the belle of the ball, with grace and lovely spins. He loved the face-to-face out of hold section, which is very difficult to do, and agrees with Alesha on Alex's considerable improvement. Craig thinks she lost her neck on occasion, raised one shoulder too much, missed some closings, but he agrees with the others and she has come a very long way in the competition. Len thinks she looked beautiful and danced beautiful(ly), and deserves to be here in the semi-final. Note that he doesn't say she deserves to get any further.

Tess asks Alex if (she feels like a) natural DANCER now, and Alex scoffs at this, saying it's all down to James's tiresome tireless hard work with her, and getting this far is a pleasant surprise for both of them. Tess asks if learning two dances has been harder, and Alex says that she's been trying to enjoy it in case it's her last week, and "hopefully the salsa's all right." At this, of course, she pulls a massive "ERP" face, bless her. Scores: Craig 7, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 34. Hmm.

Chelsee and Pasha are our next couple. Chelsee is not quite sure how she managed to get this far, but is very excited all the same - she never expected to get a 10 from Len, and she thought she would go out in the first week. This week, she's got the paso doble and the American smooth. For some reason, Chelsee has the same VT as Harry, so she dons some overalls and a comedy fake nose and moustache to go and spy on him and Aliona, under the guise of maintenance. She "comically" mistakes him for Jason before dashing back to Pasha to practice more. This whole thing does make me feel like we're being conditioned to see Harry and Chelsee as the top two, though since that seems fairly likely to happen anyway, I'm not entirely sure why they're bothering.

They're dancing the American smooth to 'Time After Time', and consequently I spend the whole routine expecting them to do the full Romy and Michele and start rolling across the floor. They don't, sadly, but the routine is still lovely - lyrical, romantic, with lovely lines and genuinely believable chemistry between them. Pasha's even treated us to a spot of literal choreography for the "If you fall I will catch you" line, bless him. The attempt at a running split doesn't quite come off, but it ends with a lovely supported spin and a very warm reception from the audience.

Bruno tells Chelsee that she has a natural shine (that'll be the tan) and glows when she dances. He thinks she has a natural instinct for the phrasing of the music that many dancers take years to master. He's disappointed that she got stuck in the split, but otherwise it was excellent. Craig thinks her arms are exquisite and for a "vertically-challenged" person, she creates beautifully long lines. Chelsee isn't sure what that means, so Craig clarifies: "SHORT, darling." Heh. [Oh, Chelsee. I loved that Pasha was also very puzzled by the expression. At least he has an excuse. - Carrie] He wasn't so keen on the shoulder lift, which he thought was rather ugly, and some movements were rushed, and the bent leg on the drag split was "horrific", which Bruno objects to. Len says it was "like the Chelsee Flower Show", because she was in full bloom. He's been holding onto that one all series, hasn't he? Just waiting for the right time to use it, and now he's realised he's probably not going to get that perfect moment so he's just chucking it out there anyway. Oh Len.

Up to the Tess Circle they scamper, and Chelsee cops to having been nervous and shaking before the dance, and she's just loving the whole experience. Pasha calls Chelsee wonderful and a hard-worker. A clearly embarrassed Chelsee mumbles "thank you, Pash". D'awww. Scores: Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha ("that was a first class performance, Chelsee") 10, Bruno 9 for a total of 36.

Tess throws back to Bruce, who is not ready. Live TV! Holly and Artem are next. Last week her paso was amazing, and boosted her out of the bottom two for the first time in two weeks. Holly: "I didn't think I'd ever get a 10. For anything in life." I find myself wondering what other abilities she's graded on using such a scale on a daily basis. Perhaps that's a matter best left to Holly and her bajillionaire boyfriend. This week she's got the Charleston and the Argentine tango, and is "just trying not to drop dead", and Artem points out enigmatically that they're not on the schedule that they're "supposed" to be on without ever explaining why, but he looks kind of annoyed about it. Meanwhile, Holly looks like she's been getting a bit upset at having to cope with learning two dances. Holly decides that the way ahead is sabotage, so she "greases" Harry's shoes, "switches" Alex's music for 'The Birdie Song', "snips" Chelsee's top straps (that's a little too on-the-nose for my liking) and "puts" itching powder in Jason's trousers. Of course, everyone just sees him twitching and spasming and doesn't notice anything different. Still, at least it's different to see a contestant actively embracing the villain edit. I love Holly.

Their Argentine tango is, per Wikipedia, to 'Por una Cabeza', and involves Holly predominantly sitting on a stool for the first 20 seconds or so. That's one way to get around learning two lots of steps, I suppose. When she eventually gets up, things improve, though her leg movements are a bit too sluggish for this dance - there's not enough of the attack behind them, which is a shame, because I thought from her skill in the paso that that would be the one thing she'd excel at here. It's not a particularly terrible performance, just a bit lacklustre.

Craig liked that it was quiet, controlled and seductive. He enjoyed Holly reacting to Artem's lead and thought it was gorgeous. Len says he doesn't normally love props (YOU DON'T SAY), but he thought that worked well, and he thinks that the standard of dancing overall tonight has been fantastic. Alesha loved the lines, leg extensions, lunges and all the other things beginning with L (seriously, who needs Arlene as Alesha alliterates appropriately and amazingly?) and says that Holly is still a real contender. Artem does the step-back-and-clap thing that he hasn't done much this year. Bruno loved the "beautiful, bad and dangerous" concept and is basically lascivious about everything.

They trot up to the Tess Circle and...hang on, is Alex wearing an overcoat? Like, the sort that flashers wear? She is. That looks...odd. I mean, I think most people are assuming it's all part of her costume for her salsa, but it's still not a nice thing to have to stand wearing in the Tess Circle for a long period of time. Especially since parts of her dress keep froofing out from underneath and making it look like she needs to make an urgent appointment with her bikini waxer. Anyway, where were we? Holly loves the Argentine Tango and is thrilled that she's still here and able to do it. She chats about how they're doing double the work in half the time and everyone's having a bit of a week of it. Scores: Craig 9, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 36.

Bruce misses his cue again. Oh dear. Next we have Jason and Kristina. Jason recalls how movie week "looked like it was going to be the perfect night", and then he landed in the bottom two. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Schadenfreude! Making the world a better place to be! Jason says that being in the bottom two wasn't nice. He has never come across more dad-like than he is right now: Jason's not angry with us, just very disappointed, and look how upset your mother is. Mum -- sorry, Kristina -- explains that she wasn't ready for her journey with Jason to be over, and that's why she was crying. Jason is pleased to have a second chance, and is determined to come back in the semis with a performance to be proud of. They've got the samba and the Argentine tango this week. Their VT is mainly training-focused, but derailed at the end when a "private detective" turns up with a dossier containing the other contestants' top-secret "progress reports". All of which, it seems, have no actual writing on them. PROP FAIL.

Their samba is to 'Blame It On The Boogie' and begins on the balcony at the top of the staircase - and as Jason skips his way over to the staircase, he slips and nearly tumbles. Again, the less forgiving side of my personality is a bit disappointed he didn't actually fall the whole way down the stairs, because that would have been funny, but I do generally draw the line at wishing actual physical harm on people, so let's all just pretend I never thought that. Deal? He's got good bounce action, but his timing seems continually off on the running promenades. Also - and I'm aware this is a costuming problem rather than Jason's fault - the fact that Kristina's skirt doesn't go the whole way around her waist just makes the "flapping the skirt" move look silly.

"Oh, what a couple you are," says Bruce, apparently talking to Kristina's tits. It was full of all the steps Len likes to see (I hope that includes "the one where Jason almost falls over") and he thought that Jason's bum was "going to town". Ewww. He points out the loss of timing and blames it on the boogie euphoria of the moment, but thinks it was a good job. Alesha thinks Jason would've been worried drawing the samba for the semi-final, but that he needn't have been, because he had fun and "captured the spirit" (drink!), though she agrees there were timing issues. Bruno liked to see Jason "bright and gay" (lolz), but that it's hard to get back on the timing in a dance like this when you lose it. He declares it "messy, but fun". Craig liked the energy, but thought there were some "awkward daddy dancing" moments. No one mentions him almost going arse-over-tit on the balcony, but I suppose that probably would've been quite difficult to see from where they were sitting. I wouldn't be surprised if it shows up on Len's Lens, mind.

Up in the Tess Circle, Jason takes a swig of water and hands the bottle back to Brendan. Tess asks how the dance was for him, and Jason bores that it's all about having fun at this point in the competition, and at this point he just wants to enjoy the time he has in the competition. Tess says that the audience didn't notice the timing issues. Speak for yourself, lady. Tess asks what we can expect from his Argentine tango. "He might kill me," Kristina replies. To be honest, I've got that sensation from a lot of Jason's dances. He looked like he was considering doing away with her at the end of the rumba, for starters. Scores: Craig 8, Len 9, Alesha 9, Bruno 8 for a total of 34. There is a muted response in the Tess Circle, and then Jason waves his bum at the camera. My coping strategy for this is to mentally replace it with Harry's bum. Much easier that way.

Halfway leaderboard: Harry at the top, Chelsee in second, Holly in third, and Alex and Jason tying for last place.

To kill some time, we now have a VT featuring "The Famous Five". I am using my expertise here as someone who read a lot of Enid Blytons as a child to deduce that Harry is Julian, Jason is Dick (ha!), Holly is George (though to be honest, the way they've made her up, she could just as easily be Aunt Fanny or indeed Uncle Quentin), Chelsee is Anne and Alex is Timmy the dog (hee, and also aww). Said VT "treats" us to the acting skills of Len Goodman Esq., as he goes to retrieve the Strictly glitterball only to discover that - horrors! - it's not where he usually keeps it, next to all those signed pictures of SPORTSMEN. He summons "five intrepid explorers" to come to his aid, and Harry (barely even needing to make his accent more plummy, which is quite funny in itself) asks what the devil is going on. The less said about Chelsee's attempt at RP, the better. Anyway, Len offers them a wonderful trip to BLACKPOOL if they can safely retrieve the trophy, and Holly declares it the perfect job for The Famous Five - at which point Brendan appears in his Rent-A-Pro suit of armour and suggests they make it The Super Six. He is sent packing. Alex suggests they start with Russell Grant, and the others pretend not to have understood, though whether this is a "talking dog" joke or yet another "LOL WELSH ACCENT" joke is never entirely clear.

Anyway (bloody hell, a VT that needs breaking up into paragraphs) they run off in search of him, and I spot that Harry and Jason have their shirts untucked, which I'm sure Julian and Dick would never do. Tsk. Also, Harry's outfit appears to involve TopMan chinos. Anyway, they find Russell Grant masturbating over a picture of Harry in the Strictly annual (or at least that would appear to be the implication), and he denies all knowledge of the crime, claiming that he has enough glittery balls in his life, or something. He suggests they try Craig, so they do. Craig is coveting something which he claims to be his "little secret" - and turns out to be his 10 paddle. Oh, all right: heh. He says that he hasn't seen the trophy since last year, at which point Alex suggests that maybe Kara has it. Once again, nobody can make out what Alex is saying, so Holly just gives her a bone. Alex doesn't seem terribly perturbed, she's probably used to being treated like this on The One Show all the time. They find "Kara" with the trophy, except it's not so much Kara as it is Brendan with an unconvincing wig and a small cut-out of Kara's face on a stick, at which point Artem bursts in, snatches it away, and tells Brendan he's not falling for that one again. Okay, I may have made that last bit up. And thus the trophy was rescued, and far too many of the audiences developed Feelings about Harry as a posh jailbait adventurer. Not that I was one of those people, obviously. [I genuinely seem to be the only Strictly watcher in the world who finds Harry entirely sexless. - Carrie]

Right, with that all over, time for dance number two from everyone. At this point in the competition, it's time for the judges to get together and discuss everyone's progress, so Bruce introduces the first such feature for "Harry and Ariona". Oh dear. Len thinks Harry is a semi-finalist if ever he saw one, and that Harry has the complete package. Alesha thought Harry would be good, but never realised how good. Bruno admires Harry's physique FROM A DANCE PERSPECTIVE, OKAY, as does Craig. Craig also likes Harry's rhythm, because he's a drummer. Len thinks Harry needs to maintain the level of his quickstep to make it to the final. Len bitches about the lack of drama in his Argentine tango again, and Alesha doesn't think he's a runaway winner. From there, we segue into Harry's Viennese waltz training, and Harry says that there's no room to fall into the bottom two this week, because the bottom two go home.

They're dancing to 'This Year's Love' and open with a Len-baiting fleckerl before swooping around the dancefloor beautifully. I genuinely can't find anything to fault in this whatsoever - it's right up there with the greats. I wonder if it's a coincidence that Aliona has curbed her desire for eccentric choreography as they've got closer to the trophy, or whether this was all a part of her plan to create a "journey" for someone who could've been perceived as a ringer. Either way, I feel like I should take my hat off to her, were I wearing one.

Alesha wonders why Harry's been hiding behind the drums for so many years [um, because he's the drummer, Leesh? - Carrie], because he's so talented, and that dance was exquisite. Bruno refers to the prince and the showgirl, and says that the romance unfolded perfectly with each step. He thinks Harry is "dancing royalty". Craig thought it was a slightly odd Viennese waltz because it was despondent and melancholy, which he thought was a very interesting take that he really enjoyed, but he'd like to see Harry move his head to the left a fraction more. Len loved the fleckerl, the natural turns, the reverse turns, the swing of the body and so on, and insists à la Henry VIII that Harry be taken to the Tower...Ballroom, in Blackpool.

Tess points out that this was his last shot at the title, and Harry says that this might well have been his last dance - and whatever happens, it will have been his last dance in TVC. He just wants to thank Aliona in case he gets eliminated, because she's worked so hard with him. Tess picks up on the "dancing royalty" comment and Dougie's recent I'm A Celebrity win (which Harry phrases as "Queen - sorry, King of the Jungle", and BOO Harry, that joke is beneath you) and wonders if there's any chance of a McFly double this year. Harry says that there are so many other great people here, that you just don't know. Scores: Craig 9, Len 10, Alesha 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39, securing Harry's spot at the top of the leaderboard this week.

Time to hear what the judges think about Alex and James. Mainly Alex, thankfully. Len thinks "good on 'er" for making it this far, and Craig thinks she lacked "genuine" confidence at the beginning of the competition. Bruno remembers Alex shining at Wembley with her tango (with Alesha adding "she didn't make -- well, it didn't seem like she made any mistakes", which: hee), but then the next week everything fell apart again on the Charleston. Bruno thinks that she's improved in the ballroom, but she's still to reluctant to use what she has in the Latin. Alesha thinks Alex's warmth and joyful personality is another reason she's been kept in. Len thinks Alex needs to prove to us all she belongs in the final. Back in training for her salsa, Alex is worried about the extra pressure brought about by the double elimination, but hopes that she'll have the confidence to make it to BLACKPOOL.

Alex sweeps the stage in her overcoat briefly before being overcome by the music and stripping off her coat to reveal a fancy sequinned dress underneath. I'm...not really sure what the point of that was. It didn't seem to have much of a story behind it. Still, it came from the mind of James Jordan and is therefore clearly BEYOND REPROACH so perhaps I shouldn't dwell on it. It's actually not that bad an attempt, especially for Alex - the timing's a bit questionable, but she's really selling it and having a good time. There's a worrying tabletop lift where we get an unwanted shot of her gusset, and after that it's a lot of armography. The footwork is not great, but again, such a step forward from where she started.

Bruno tells Alex she can scrub his floor any time. Fnar. He liked the arm passes and the holds, but when Alex is on her own, there are still moments of uncertainty that she needs to get past. "If you make it to BLACKPOOL, you really need to get there," he finishes, making me wonder if part of the score that week will depend on the contestants' skills at sorting their own transport. Craig thinks this routine was a big challenge for Alex, and perhaps a bit beyond her skill set, but he loves that she throws herself undeniably into it, and that's very much to be admired. Len thinks it was full of personality and gusto, and he thought her hips were very good. He thinks she comes out full bore (I thought that was Jason?) and giving it everything, however, in doing so she lost a bit of finesse. Alesha agrees with Len in that it was full-on and fun, but it did get messy. She wants Alex to be proud of how well she's done.

Up in the Tess Circle, Alex says she thought this might have been her last chance, so she just decided to go for it. James says that yesterday she was feeling very self-conscious about it and was actually in tears, but he's proud of her for giving it 100% out there. Tess asks how Alex would feel if it was her last dance. Alex gets as far as "it would be devastating, but--" before James decides that this is HIS QUESTION NOW and butts in "but you were brilliant, and if it's time to go it's time to go." Charming. Scores: Craig 7 (James: "He doesn't like you", like FUCK OFF), Len 8, Alesha 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 31. James says that Craig doesn't like him, and he's taking it out on Alex, and FUCK OFF JAMES JORDAN. GOD. I don't care if this is all pantomime and if James is playing "the bitter one" or whatever, he is such an attention-hog and it's really getting on my tits.

Time to check in with Chelsee and Pasha again. Craig thinks that Chelsee's been a real surprise with her overall level of skill. Alesha didn't expect to see the level of technique that Chelsee has shown week after week, and Len says that he realised how good she was with her quickstep. Len tries to do a "GWORN CHELSEE" before realising that sounds like declaring allegiance to a football team beyond his beloved West Ham. Heh. Len thinks she's the revelation of the pack and a real firecracker, and also points out that Pasha has the confidence to let Chelsee repeatedly start a routine on her own - but wonders if Chelsee shares his confidence. Chelsee is very excited to be this close to the final, and just hopes she can do well this week and not disappoint the judges.

Their paso doble is to 'Malagueña' (again, I'm getting this from Wikipedia, don't shoot the messenger if it's wrong) and Chelsee experiences a prop malfunction early on when her flick of the fan that she's holding doesn't quite result it in it...well, fanning out. She corrects it manually, though, and very smoothly too, I might add. Somewhere during her first few moments in hold with Pasha, however, the fan gets squashed again and so when she starts flapping it during the routine it looks a bit odd. There's some very nice footwork and lovely arm-shaping throughout the performance, though to my mind there are a few points where she's lacking the necessary attack and everything feels placed rather than fierce. There's a little bit at the end too where she looks uncertain, like she's found herself in the wrong place, and it's a bit faltery. It's always hard to tell whether that genuinely means anything, but I did get that sense quite a bit during this routine, and I can only report it as I see it. By all means draw your own conclusion.

Chelsee jokes with Bruce about her "Pasha doble" and says that she absolutely loved that routine. Craig thinks it was "paso personified" and "AH-MAY-ZING". He thinks she was "gobsmackingly good". Len loved the mood, attitude and focus, and calls it fantastic. Alesha thinks Chelsee is performing like a true dancer, and thinks she deserves to be in the final. Bruno is fanning himself with his script and gets a bit carried away with talking about the "pressure" and the "steam". He loved the flamenco part of the routine and thinks her artistry is superb.

Pasha Doble head up to the Tess Circle, and Tess says that surely Chelsee is finding it easier to generate passion with Pasha now? "This dance I did, yeah," giggles Chelsee. Tess asks Chelsee if she's done enough to make the final three. Chelsee says she hopes so. Scores: 10s all round for a total of 40. I'm kind of surprised that this was the routine that prompted Craig to get his 10 out, for the reasons outlined above, but fair enough. It's also the first perfect score for a paso doble in Strictly history, so well done Chelsee. Chelsee is quivering, and thanks Pasha, who gives her a hug. Wow, a perfect score AND a hug from Pasha? BEST DAY EVER. While Tess is yammering on, Chelsee keeps fanning herself with the (closed) fan, so Pasha takes it from her, opens it out and starts fanning her face. Is he not just the most precious thing?

People are giggling behind Tess, because Bruce has got his glitterball 3D glasses on. I'm expecting a gag from this, but it appears to be "Bruce cannot read the autocue", which happens often enough without visual aids, so: eh. Len thinks Holly is a worthy semifinalist. Bruno thinks she rarely does mistakes and has excellent placement, but she "seems to switch off". I'm not sure she ever switches on, does she? Alesha thinks she spotted fire in her eyes during the foxtrot, and all the judges fondly remember the Black Swan-themed American Smooth. Lip service is paid to Holly's fine work in the week she danced with Brendan, and Len thinks that Holly needs to maintain her energy to make the final. Holly reminds us that her final dance is the Charleston, which is "tongue-in-cheek fun", i.e. not at all suited to someone like Holly, whose sense of humour is drier than Sauvignon Blanc. Nonetheless, she vows to come out with "fire and energy" in the hope of making it through.

Hmm. Their Charleston is to 'We Speak No Americano', and features Holly and Artem as DJs. The bit behind the decks is fair enough, and the opening 20 seconds or so of actual dancing are fine - indeed, Holly copes better with the inherent goofiness of the genre better than I thought she would. Then they break into a kick section in hold and her footwork starts to suffer a little bit, and shortly after that she loses place entirely and has to look at Artem to see what she's supposed to be doing. She never properly recovers from that, and it's a shame, because there are hints throughout that she totally has the skill to do this dance, and the choreography, while Aliona-levels of bonkers, is fun and unusual. I wonder if it would've made any difference if the running order had been switched and she could've done this one first - having to do the far more energetic dance second can't have helped her. Just to compound the mishaps, the end pose involves them running back behind the decks and putting their headphones on, and while Holly manages it fine, Artem's get all tangled. Holly looks a bit nauseous when it's all over, though whether that's exertion or realising how badly it went is up to the interpreter.

Len liked the modern interpretation eventually, and thought she had the lovely Charleston swivel, but thought the whole thing could've been slicker. Alesha liked the whole DJ Valance aspect of it, and points out that they're all exhausted by this point, and she wants to commend Holly for stepping out of her comfort zone. I mean, she didn't have much choice, that's just the way the draw fell, but whatever. Similarly, Bruno praises her for the interpretation (again, not really her work), but spotted some moments of hesitation here and there. Craig thanks Artem for taking such risks with his choreography, and loved the idea, though he only thought it was "sort of" danced well.

They head to the Tess Circle, where Artem pings his braces. Tess says that Holly conquered the Charleston, and Holly says that she didn't exactly conquer it, but at least she "didn't die at the end." Heh. Holly talks about how fun it was to do something modern, because she didn't think she could ever do the Charleston. During this, Artem has checked out so very much that he removes his glasses, rubs them on his shirt, blows on them, and then pops his finger through the frames to show that THERE WERE NO LENSES IN THEM AT ALL! Shocker, I know. Scores: Craig 8, Len 8, Alesha ("come on!") 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 34. Tess asks Holly if she wants to make the final. Holly, unconvincingly: "I'd love to have a go!" I think Holly would be more than happy to go home this week. She's made the semis, she can retire with her head held high.

Finally, we have Jason and Kristina. Len thinks Jason is a performer, and that's helped him make it this far. Alesha thinks he started really strong(ly). Len thinks Jason puts so much pressure on himself and makes himself go wrong. Bruno mentions the jive that wasn't, and how the pressure ruined it (or the fuck-up ruined it, depending on your perspective). There is talk about how the rumba is SO HARD FOR MEN, and more about how he's such a great performer. Len thinks Jason can't afford to keep making mistake, and must learn to relax. In training for the Argentine Tango, Jason talks about how much pressure there is on him. Oops. However, he's decided that he's just going to go out and have a good time this week.

They're dancing to 'Assassin's Tango', appropriately enough, and OH MY GOD SERIAL KILLER FACE SERIAL KILLER FACE SERIAL KILLER FACE. Seriously, why has no one on this show ever explained to Jason how it looks when he does that? Kristina is basically in her underwear with a trace amount of lace over the top, and the choreography for this whole routine is magnificent, but Jason's dancing, not so much. He's not really doing much more than act as a frame for Kristina to dance on, and the few occasions where he gets to dance by himself (e.g. slapping the backs of his heels) look sloppy. He even seems to stumble at one point, and when he lifts Kristina up high he's clearly struggling to keep his balance. It all makes me very uneasy, like I'm watching one of those public service "what would you do?" films that's going to chastise me at the end for watching impassively when I should have been dialling 999.

There's a standing ovation that Bruno and Alesha participate in, although he sits down long before she does. Alesha doesn't even wait for Bruce to give her the cue to start speaking (cue six more "SACK THAT DISRESPECTFUL COW" threads on Digital Spy, no doubt) and tells him that it was clean, sharp and built and built, and it was so aggressive. She then apologises to Bruce for getting overexcited, and starts cackling. Bruno says it was like watching "death by Kristina" ("death of Kristina", surely? I mean he tried to snap her neck halfway through). Craig thinks "that woman" should be on an assault charge. Hang on, was I watching this wrong? Because this is all getting far too victim-blamey for my taste. Len thinks that if you're going to do your best dance of the series, what better time than the semi-final. Er, the final?

They run up to the Tess Circle without waiting for the word from Bruce. Poor Bruce. First disrespected by Alesha, then by Jason and Kristina. Jason blahs that he feels very emotional about the whole experience, and that they've all worked very hard, and whoever makes it through to the final deserves it. Scores: 10s all round again for a total of 40. Seriously, WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK. I've seen some inexplicable perfect scores in my time, but this takes the cake, really and truly. James leans into the camera and gurns, and Jason collapses.

Leaderboard: Harry at the top, Chelsee close behind him, Jason close behind her, Holly less close behind them, and Alex even less close behind them.

The phone lines are open! Quick recap: Harry doing a spot of naval-gazing in his Charleston, and being robbed of a perfect score for his Viennese waltz, considering the guff they were handing them out for later; Alex and the attack of the arm napkins, followed by the salsa that was full of spice but had a funny texture; Chelsee's genuinely lovely Viennese waltz that was dogged by a few disappointing errors, and her Pasha Doble that apparently was not; Holly's study in scarlet of an Argentine tango, and her hip hop Charleston; and Jason's dad samba and ARGH SERIAL KILLER FACE MAKE IT STOP.

VT, about how much everyone wants to go to BLACKPOOL. As I said earlier, you will all be going regardless because everyone gets invited back for the final, so let's not waste time on this.

Two couples will be going in tomorrow night's results show, and I'd be very surprised if they weren't Holly and Artem and Alex and James, but you never know...

Results show

Just to keep us on our toes, there's a cold open this week, as the five remaining couples are all stood under the spotlight, as Tess tells us that only three of them will make it through to next week's final. I hope this was actually filmed at the same time they gave them the results, otherwise that's three times those poor blighters would've had to stand there in the glare before finding out who was going home.

Titles! The phone rings. I say "whoever that is can fuck right off". It turns out to be my dad. Oops. I disappear to my bedroom to take the call, mentally berate myself for being an ungrateful son, and thank the Lord for V+.

Lawks, we open with a mental pro paso to 'Paint It Black', which opens with Kristina in a pink leotard writhing around on the floor giving it the full Flavia as a giant swathe of fabric billows out behind her. She unhooks it from her midriff and it swoops back to reveal James, Robin and Artem, who do a spot of paso shaping before Kristina returns with Aliona and Ola, all carrying pink mini-capes of their own (this season's must-have, darling). This proves to be a bit of a misfire, as the capes turn into trains along the floor that double as convenient trip-hazards for the ladies. Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely idea, just needed a smidge more thought given to the execution.

Tess appears in a scarlet sequinned number [looking like a sparkly postbox - Carrie] and reminds us that two couples are going home tonight. She reintroduces the judges. Alesha's hair is currently over both shoulders, instead of the usual one. It looks much nicer this way, and I would recommend she consider having it like that more often. Tess throws up to Claudia, who promises performances from Aloe Blacc and the Military Wives, but first, here's a recap.

Len tells us that it was the "best ever semi-final", but then he also thought that Lisa Snowdon was the greatest female dancer never to win Strictly, so forgive me for not necessarily taking him at his word. Harry's Charleston got a good reception, but they didn't have much time to celebrate because they had to go and get changed for the next dance - the Viennese waltz, which went down similarly well. Harry thinks they've done their best, and then giggles that he's repeating himself. I guess two dances a night will do that to a person. Imagine what effect it'll have on Jason. Alex was very nervous about her waltz, but got good reviews for it. Post-salsa, she's a bit teary-eyed and "overwhelmed by the whole thing". Len repeats the same "Chelsee Flower Show" joke that wasn't especially funny the first time, and there is very little actual backstage opinion from Chelsee. No idea why. Maybe getting the 40 rendered her incapable of speech, or invisible, or something. Holly is momentarily abandoned by Artem after her Argentine tango, and then he returns. Artem thinks things went well. Holly: "Well, we've got a Charleston, so don't get too excited." Heh. Indeed, the Charleston does not go so well, and Holly is very glad that it's over. Holly isn't sure if it'll be enough to keep her in. Jason loved his samba, which is good because I didn't, and then his Argentine tango was wretched and awful and somehow got 40, which Jason declares "pretty emotional stuff". Len looks forward to BLACKPOOL, where they do the dancing.

Time for our first performance of the evening: Aloe Blacc with 'I Need A Dollar'. I think this is one of those things where everybody knows the song but an awful lot of those people would struggle to tell you who it's by. [Never heard the song either. This year officially marks the year I became middle-aged. - Carrie] Anyway, he has Brendan and Natalie doing a cha-cha-cha in front of him, and Brendan is wearing a nasty hat, and Natalie is just generally being filth the whole time, so that's quite fun. Hmm. Having described it as a cha cha cha, and still being fairly certain that's what it is, they start doing samba rolls mid way through it, so I don't know. IT'S LATIN OKAY JUST LEAVE ME ALONE.

Claudia informs us that it's results time, so we go to Tess to discover who will be dancing in the BLACKPOOL ballroom next week. In no particular order, the first couple with a definite place in the final is... Chelsee and Pasha! Chelsee screams at record decibel level and thanks us all very much. Also going through to the final are...Harry and Aliona! He actually yells for once, and almost deafens Aliona in the process. Who's secured the last place in the final? We'll have to wait a little bit longer to find out, because the show's only ten minutes in.

Tess turns to Alesha for some advice for the finalists, and Alesha is very happy for Chelsee, without whom she thinks the final would be incomplete. She tells her to dig deep, get some sleep, eat some porridge, and work hard. She also slips in a "we did five in my day!" for good measure. Bruno says that Harry has everything it takes to become king of the ballroom, he just needs to maintain the momentum and nail it. Tess cracks the "we're all wild about Harry" joke again.

Claudia is up in the Tess Circle with the first two finalists. Chelsee is "gobsmacked" both to be in the final and to have scored the first 40 of the series. Claudia asks Pasha what we can expect from the showdance. "Funky," replies Pasha. Intriguing. Harry tells Claudia that it's been such an amazing experience, and he's over the moon to be in the final. He says that he's been to BLACKPOOL before, but never danced there, so he's very excited about that.

Time for an exhibition showdance? I think so: here are Craig Smith and Natalie Woolf. They're dancing to 'Happy' by Leona Lewis, and hopefully all the pros have been briefed that attempting to copy these two leads to disaster and is generally deeply discouraged. It's an amazing display of dance and general acrobatics, though it is fairly lift-heavy, so if you're a lift-denier it is perhaps not your cup of tea. [STRICTLY COME LIFTING! - Carrie]

Claudia, afterwards: "Len and I do that every year at the wrap party." I don't doubt it. It's time for Len's Lens, for the final time this series. We begin with a listen to Len during Harry's Charleston, shouting "WHORYEAH!" "GWARN MY BOY!" and things like that. It's very unsettling, though Len claims that reactions like that are exactly what the Charleston should be about. Then we go to Jason's dad dancing in his samba, and Craig thinks he was "on a complete and utter mission", though to precisely what I am unsure. Bruno wants to talk about Alex's amazing gusset-flashing tabletop lift, and says that the dismount was a bit dodgy, but the going up was splendid. THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID. Then we go to Claudia's suggestion for a Tulisa-style supergroup ready to take to the floor if anyone else drops out: Bruno and Alesha, swaying together, presumably during the "keeeeeeep dancing!" Bruno calls Alesha "absolutely gorgeous" and Craig tells her that he feels sorry for her, having to sit next to Bruno. This from the man who has to sit next to LEN, lest we forget.

Time for highlights of the series: Len's is Ola having a massive grump-on after being kicked out of the Swingathon. Craig: "She's turning into her husband." Heee. Alesha's pick of the series, which she claims she's been waiting three years for, is Alesha dancing on the judges' table at WEMBLEY and whacking her on the back of the head. Alesha: "Thank God for hair extensions." Hee. Craig's is a bit of a cheat because it's not really from the actual show: it's Bruce doing the jive with Holly when Artem was injured. Bruno's is Craig ("or the Wicked Witch Of The East") flying through the air at Wembley dressed as Brian May. Claudia has a clip that no one's seen before, and it's Bloody Lulu attempting to high five Brendan and missing by about six miles. Since this is our last Len's Lens, and Claudia's last show of the year, Len has a little surprise for Claudia. I say "Len", I mean "the VT team": it's a little mash-up of all of Claudia's reactions of "THE GRANT" set to a soundtrack of 'Dance Wiv Me'. I guess there were only so many of these segments they could do without resorting to the ol' standby, even when he hasn't been on the show for weeks.

Next we have a performance from Gareth Malone and The Military Wives, with Flavia and Vincent dancing in front of them. I'm afraid The Military Wives fall under my "very noble and charitable endeavour as long as you don't expect me to care" heading, so I shan't be dwelling on that, but Vincent and Flavia's dancing is lovely, and Gareth Malone is all sorts of adorable.

Time to head back to Tess, to find out who's being eliminated tonight. Tess builds up to announcing the first couple who will be going home, and people start yelling from the audience. Perhaps they're yelling supportive things, but the overall effect is of them clamouring for certain couples to be sent home, which is HORRIBLE and unwelcome. Take that sort of behaviour back to The X Factor, where it belongs. Anyway, the first couple leaving tonight is...Alex and James. Tess tells Alex she's been absolutely magnificent, and Alex says that she's had an incredible time, and will look back on this fondly when she's old and grey. She says that she and James have laughed 80% of the time, when he wasn't ignoring and berating her. Alex thanks James for performing miracles, and then James tries to act like a decent human being for a change and says that if there were a trophy for most improved, Alex would've won it. "Friends for life!" Tess screeches. I doubt it, somehow. I hear he and Pamela stopped speaking the second the tour was over. Exit VT: Alex's Strictly journey, from being awful, to being less awful, to being decent, even scraping a first place finish on the leaderboard along the way. Not too shabby, is it?

Alex and James step to one side while Tess prepares to reveal the other couple leaving us tonight. The audience start caterwauling because they're all feral beasts with no fucking decorum, and the couple leaving us is...Holly and Artem. Holly says that she's proud of being part of the most successful Strictly to date (ha!) and calls Artem the most brilliant choreographer she's ever witnessed in her life, adding that she's made beautiful new friends that she'll be taking with her. Artem says that he's very strict in rehearsals and doesn't compliment his partner as he should more often, but thanks Holly very much for everything. Aww. For someone who clearly didn't give a crap for 98% of this process, Holly seems genuinely moved now that she's actually going home. We see their highlights VT, wherein Holly describes the whole experience as "epic", and gets a little bit weepy in the corner of the screen watching it all. She enjoyed all of it, especially Wembley, despite feeling a bit like she was "at a dog show being paraded around the arena". She knows there's going to be a comedown after the whole thing's over.

Holly and Artem join Alex and James for their last dance as Tess squeals "real tears! Real tears!" She congratulates our three finalists - Chelsee and Pasha (Chelsee waving frantically like she's on All Star Family Fortunes), Harry and Aliona (Harry waving feebly with a faint sense of embarrassment, like someone he knows is on All Star Family Fortunes) and Jason and Kristina (SERIAL KILLER GLARE). They'll all be in BLACKPOOL next week, which will also be broadcast in 3D for the six people in the country who can actually receive that on their tellies, as well as in a few cinemas. Tess thanks Claudia for all her hard work, and 'The Winner Takes It All' plays, rather cruelly, for the departing couples. James and Artem very sweetly bear up Holly and Alex between them and spin them around as the other contestants come to bid them goodbye. I'm gutted because I had genuinely grown to love both Holly and Alex, but at least there are also two couples I love in the final, so I've not done too badly this year. See you next week for a blow-by-blow account of the final!